The nations of Afghanistan and Scotland couldn’t be more different, but at the World T20 qualifiers in Nagpur, the players representing the teams have a lot in common. They are all in search, wanting no longer to be among the peripheral.
With their matches at a venue set in the backdrop of near nothingness, between a highway and a railway line, a philosophical context is only a glance away.
Teenager Rashid Khan, for instance, who took two vital wickets in Afghanistan’s win against Scotland, is yet to earn his first salary. With 10 wickets in eight T20Is and 11 in seven ODIs, he has justified the new one-year contract he had signed with the Afghanistan Cricket Board. The payment, however, will only come later.
“I guess we will be paid after the World Cup,” says Khan.
But Khan isn’t lamenting. Like the highway and the railway line to a job seeker, he sees dreams in the spin-friendly pitch.
“As we have seen in the India v South Africa Test, played at the same venue, there was a lot of turn. As a spinner it’s a great feeling,” said Khan.
Hailing from Nangarhar Province in east Afghanistan, a cricketing oasis, Khan didn’t have to endure the hardships many in Afghanistan had, and continue to have. Born to a family who understood the business of importing tyres from the Gulf and reselling them, Khan readily acknowledges if not for his family’s financial stability, he wouldn’t have been a cricketer.
Choosing to be a cricketer when his five elder brothers, who ‘were also leg-break bowlers’, saw the prudence of joining their family business, wasn’t straightforward, however.
It wouldn’t have been for Scotland’s George Munsey, either. But like his captain Preston Mommsen, and Khan, he sees the qualifiers as a shop-window. “This for us is a big challenge. We are here to prove what we can do, not only to our country, coaches and all the people back home, but to other people around in County cricket, Big Bash and other T20 tournaments we are trying to get into,” said Munsey.
Khan, with his performance in the opener, has already taken his first step, and is eyeing a bigger leap against Hong Kong. Munsey, however, has a lot more to do when Scotland face Zimbabwe on Wednesday.
An Afghan has an advantage over a Scot in their professional ambitions in a sport the Scots have played for over a century. The world of Associate cricket is a strange one.