The Boy Who Dodged Bullets and Bombs So He Could Come to Canberra to Have a Bat and Bowl – and Captain His Country at the Cricket World Cup

This afternoon a bloke that very few Australians have ever heard of will lead his national team out on to Canberra’s Manuka Oval to make their first ever appearance on cricket’s World Cup stage. The man’s name is Mohammed Nabi, the captain of the fledgling Afghanistan side who take on Bangladesh today in the first round of the Cup. He’s also probably the proudest man in the world.

Nabi is an all-rounder who, when he is not leading his nation from the front, plies his trade in the Bangladesh Premier League for the Sylhet Royals alongside for West Indian star Shiv Chanderpaul. The International Cricket Council rate Nabi above Watto and the Big Show as the eighth best One-Day Innings player in the world, although it’s not reflected in their pay cheques, for while Watto earns half a million bucks every month and Glenn Maxwell pockets $120k, Nabi earns just $2,300 a month captaining the cricketing minnow.

It’s not always about the money though, and today is a proud day both for Afghanistan cricket, and an extraordinary achievement for a man who was forced to flee his country as a child during the Soviets invasion, and is said to have first picked up a bat at the age of ten in a refugee camp in Peshawar, near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

That part of the story may be a tad apocryphal – his family are reputed to have been wealthy business people, although that is something Nabi denies – but Nabi’s personal journey into the ICC world top ten ratings, and his role in leading the Afghani team on to the 2015 World Cup in Australia, is the stuff of legend.

It wasn’t that long ago that Afghanistan didn’t even have a national cricket team. Although the history books report that the British bowled bouncers in Kabul as early as 1839, it wasn’t until 1995 that bored Afghan refugees living in camp tents on the Pakistan border began to take up bats and balls with earnest.

When Nabi returned to the country of his birth things were grim. The Taliban had banned cricket – as indeed they had all sports – but at the dawn of the 21st century in 2000 the restrictions were lifted, and the next year Afghanistan became an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council, in the process becoming eligible for some seed funding to develop the game, although the $440 000 they received annually probably wouldn’t pay for Watto’s new car.

Since that time, led from the front by Nabi – who in 45 ODI’s has averaged 31.44 with the bat – the Afghan team has exceeded all expectations, and have earned their right to pad up at Manuka today the hard way. They rapidly worked their way through World Cricket League Divisions Five, Four and Three, then battled through the 2009 World Cup qualifiers.

Led by 58 off 64 balls in the playoff, Afghanistan finished fifth in that tournament behind Ireland, whose win over the Windies earlier this week proved the depth of the form. Despite the disappointment of narrowly missing out on a place in the 2011 World Cup, Afghanistan’s efforts earned them ODI status and qualified the team for the 2009/2010 ICC Intercontinental Cup, which they went on to win, dropping only a single match to take home the prize.

In 2013 the ICC rewarded the nation for their cricketing achievements by granting them Associate Membership status and the additional funding that it carries with it, as well as the long-coveted prize of a place in the 2015 Cup.

And now here they are in, the side that doesn’t even have a home stadium, in Australia set to make their debut in the cricketing World Cup, with the eyes of the world upon them. As during the past decade the bombs rained down on Kandahar and Kabul and the bullets flew, whoever would have believed it?

Modammad Nabi did. He had a dream and chased it. And now here he and his country are, and together we stand and applaud them.

May the cricketing Gods grant Nabi a century today. No cricketer deserves it more.

About Archie Butterfly

Archie's decided to follow the dream and try become the next great Aussie bush poet. They all think he's mad. He's out to prove them right!

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