Nowroz Mangal
The Cricketer Star of Afghanistan

Sports can inspire and unify a nation within, and unify people beyond national boundaries as it helps to transcend the barriers of religion, politics and ethnicity. The mark of a great sportsman is not just to win, but to inspire others. Nowroz Mangal may provide that glimmer of light for a new generation of cricketers in Afghanistan, no doubt many talents has already been lost through the decades of conflict.

The story of Nowroz Mangal is an interesting one. Born in Kabul in 1984, was forced to spent much of his early years in the refugee camps, in neighbouring Pakistan with his family, fleeing from the Soviet invasion, and the subsequent Civil War that followed the Soviet withdrawal. It was in the camps that Mangal, like many of his teammates, was introduced to the game of cricket, this is no surprise as Pakistan is a strong cricketing nation, the sport is very popular amongst the masses. When the US Army put an end to the Taliban rule of Afghanistan in 2001, Nowroz Mangal returned to the country. In the post Taliban climate, the Afghanistan national cricket team was born.

The coach for Afghanistan, Taj Malik, noticed the talent in Nowroz Mangal, and approached his father for permission; the father initially refused to agree on the basis that the sport is not a way to make a steady living. And given the post-Taliban climate in Afghanistan this was not surprising. However, eventually the father conceded, and Nowroz Mangal made his debut for Afghanistan against Nowshehra in 2001; and made his international debut for Afghanistan against Oman, in 2004 for the ACC Trophy. During the tournament, Nowroz Mangal was Afghanistan's leading run scorer with 271 runs, which enabled the team to progress to the quarter-finals where they lost to Kuwait. That is a remarkable achievement for a nascent cricket team, and no doubt the success was partially due to the substantial contribution made by Mangal.

By 2007, Mangal was made captain of the national team. He took the team from division 5 to division 1 in the World Cricket League, and a number of successes in various other tournaments culminated in winning the 2010 ACC Trophy Elite. He scored his maiden first-class century against Kenya in October 2010, making a run of 168.

In November 2010, he was replaced as the captain of the team by the all-rounder Mohammed Nabi. The performance of the team continued to improve under the new captain, which included the astonishing victory over Pakistan in the semi-final of the Asian games 20twenty. However, the team lost against Bangladesh in the final.

Although relieved of the captaincy, Mangal Nowroz continued to play and led the side to face Scotland in the final of the, 200910 ICC Intercontinental Cup in December. Though it was the first time the team had taken part in the Intercontinental Cup, they won the final, another remarkable victory, considering that Afghanistan is a relatively new cricketing nation.

Mangal was again made the Captain in 2011 and the future of cricket is uncertain. The ability to build on the success of the Afghan team rests on political stability, which would facilitate for a new generation of cricketers to emerge. For sure, if the radical Taliban takes control, the team is unlikely to get any support if not banned.

Written by Yamin Zakaria exclusively for afghan-web.com
Published on May 12, 2012

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