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From Afghanistan to Germany, Izatullah Dawlatzai’s cricket journey gets new life

Having relocated from Afghanistan to Germany, Izatullah Dawlatzai aims to make a comeback into international cricket with the European country

cricket Updated: Jul 11, 2017 15:53 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Afghanistan cricket team,Izatullah Dawlatzai,Germany cricket
Izatullah Dawlatzai (L) has played international cricket for Afghanistan in the past.(AFP/Getty Images)

Not too long ago, a man from Pakistan moved to South Africa only to be with the woman he loved, and there was no stopping him. Until recently, he was at the pinnacle of rankings for bowlers in ICC Rankings for ODIs and T20Is.

Imran Tahir’s story is inspirational for those young men who dared to dream big, and Izatullah Dawlatzai is the latest addition in what could be a very exclusive list of cricketers who move to other countries just to be with their betrothed.

Growing up, Dawlatzai was never one of those who were following his national team’s progress and dreaming to represent it one day. However, playing ‘tape-ball cricket’ alongside the likes of the lanky Shapoor Zadran and Dawlat Ahmadzai, a suggestion made by his fellow cricketers to gun for the Afghanistan Under-15 side did not look a bad option for Dawlatzai, reports the official website of Lord’s.

“I said, ‘why not?’. They selected me for the under 15 team and my journey began from there,” Dawlatzai shared.

READ |Afghanistan to make Lord’s debut vs MCC XI, featuring Misbah-ul-Haq, Yasir Shah

From tape ball cricket to representing Afghanistan in Under-15 stages and then at the international circuit, the 26-year-old Dawlatzai has perhaps seen it all.

Having relocated from Afghanistan to Germany, the right-arm fast medium bowler is now aiming to play international cricket once again, but for the European country.

“I had some family problems. My fiancée was living here (Germany). When two people are in a relationship the distance is a problem when you are living too far from each other. She was born here (Germany), but she is Afghan. We couldn’t meet a lot so I decided to move here. I was in England for two months. My brother lives there, he told me to stay but I wanted to go back to Germany,” he said.

Recently, Dawlatzai played for the touring Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) team in Germany, a country that is witnessing a strong influx of refugees from Afghanistan.

READ | Afghanistan cricket team set for ‘huge honour’ in Lord’s debut against MCC

Dawlatzai helped Afghanistan qualify for their maiden appearance in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, and played his last game for the native land shortly before the start of the tournament in Australia and New Zealand.

“I think the best moment for me was when we qualified for the 2015 World Cup, which was in Australia and New Zealand. It was so amazing when we qualified. We were in Dubai, we had a match against Kenya when we won that we qualified directly. We were so emotional. I think that was the best thing that ever happened to us,” Dawlatzai expressed.

“There are so many stories because I have seen everything – the entire journey of Afghanistan cricket. Everything changed so quickly.”

But one moment that Dawlatzai cannot forget is when he got to play for Afghanistan for the very first time. He said, “It was very special for me. When you are representing your country it is a proud moment for anyone. I enjoyed it a lot… it was so amazing.”

Cricket growing in Germany

“People in Afghanistan are crazy about cricket especially when they see our players they just love them. I got so much respect in Afghanistan, people loved us. People in Afghanistan are crazy about cricket especially when they see our players they just love them. I had everything, people loved me so much. Cricket has given me so much. Playing cricket for Afghanistan, (has given me) so many things I don’t even deserve. But when you are playing good cricket, people love you,” Dawlatzai recalled.

Having settled down in Hamburg with his lady love, Dawlatzai is aiming to play international cricket once again in about two years’ time.

“I can’t find regular cricket here (Germany). It’s so difficult for me to maintain my fitness and stay in touch with cricket. I think that is the only problem I am facing here, not only me but everyone is facing here. We play once or twice a week and it’s not enough for a professional player. If you are aiming to play good cricket it’s not enough,” he said.

READ | IPL 2017 auction: Afghanistan players Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan make history

“I will qualify (to play for the national side) in two years so until then I have to play domestic cricket… it’s the only way to stay in touch with cricket,” Dawlatzai added.

For a cricketer who has already tasted success at the international stage, playing cricket in Germany has been a vastly different experience. To begin with, not as many people know you in such parts of the world.

“I think a lot of guys know me right now because (at first) they didn’t know I was here. Since German Cricket TV uploaded my video everybody (has been) surprised. (They are) like what is he doing here?! When they see me they are so happy and excited,” he shared.

Dawlatzai, meanwhile, is also proud of the fact that Afghanistan have been able to develop a strong cricket infrastructure.

READ | Afghan sensation Rashid Khan continues surge after record haul vs West Indies

“Cricket in Germany is getting better day by day. I have seen so many players here that are so talented. But you can’t compare it to Afghanistan right now. Afghanistan is doing so well. Domestically their cricket board is so good, doing everything very well (and the) national team, are playing brilliantly right now,” he explained.

With many Afghan refugees playing cricket in Germany, Dawlatzai feels cricket administrators must look after them.

“I have seen that excitement with Afghanistan and I hope it come true with the national team of Germany also. I have seen the (German) national team; many of them came a few years ago. They were refugees and they are playing in the national team right now. A lot of talent came here (to) Germany, I think up to 300,000 refugees especially from Afghanistan. They moved here and if (Germany looks) after them they will get a lot of talent,” he said.

“A lot of clubs are here. In Germany I think they have 120 something. If (German cricket) look after the clubs they will find good cricketers that can play for Germany. I hope that cricket in Germany increases a lot and they (get) to the stage that many professional teams play. It will me amazing for me because I have seen that excitement with Afghanistan and I hope it come true with the national team of Germany also,” he concluded.

First Published: Jul 11, 2017 13:42 IST