Moles: Taliban supports Afghan cricket

Afghanistan cricket coach Andy Moles believes the future is very bright for his team and envisions a Test future in a decade or two, especially as the Taliban have opted to back rather than hinder the team.

The Afghan side is one of cricket’s new loves, as most of their players rose to international cricket from refugee camps and tennis balls, and Moles has the task of seeing them to the World Cup in the Antipodes next year.

He explained that he felt safe enough most of the time, and that he didn’t worry about the Taliban, as they were supportive of the team and saw it as a unifying factor.

Moles said: “If there’s going to be a security threat, it will be from a suicide bomber. And as people tell me, if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, then unfortunately it’s curtains.

“You just have to be sensible – take different routes to work every day and stagger your times when you leave.

“We have armed guards at the ground and at the hotel. There’s soldiers on the streets and armed police. But generally the team feels very safe.

“The Taliban and people like that are very supportive of cricket. They see it as a unifying sport. They see it as good for the country.

“I don’t feel under threat myself, so the players feel even less threatened than I do.”

The Englishman thought back to when he encountered Sri Lanka when they were new to the international game, and where they are now, and said Afghanistan could follow a similar path to Test cricket.

Moles added: “They remind me of when I was playing at Warwickshire, and we came across Sri Lanka. And 20 years later look where Sri Lanka have got to.

“We’ve got some very talented cricketers in Afghanistan. There’s a very strong and popular base of cricket.

“And all the schools play cricket there now, so the future looks strong.”

He went on to say that players like skipper Mohammad Nabi were national heroes, like MS Dhoni is in India: “Everyone knows who they are. Captain Mohammad Nabi is a folk hero.”

And then added that children aspired to play cricket as a way out of the refugee camps: “If you look back over Afghanistan’s history, a lot of people have been there to try to knock them over, and they haven’t done it.

“Some of these players were brought up in tents amongst hundreds of thousands of others in refugee camps.

“A lot of youngsters see cricket as a way of getting out of the slums and the disadvantaged areas.”

He concluded by relating how his players enjoyed watching Mitchell Johnson train at the WACA recently, when they visited ahead of the World Cup, saying: “They’re obviously star struck.

“Some of the English batsmen seemed quite star struck themselves in the last Ashes series.

“But joking aside, these players really relish the opportunity to be on the field with some of these great cricketers.

“One or two will come up short, but one or two will also make a name for themselves.”