Mohebullah Archiwal, Afghanistan’s Shahid Afridi, promoting cricket as a weapon of peace

Mohebullah Archiwal worked as a translator in the US Army and is currently working in the International Rescue Committee. Archi has been termed as Afghanistan’s Shahid Afridi and is working hard to spread the game of cricket in a country that is still recovering from the scars of war. However, he is battling many odds, including the presence of the Taliban and the dangers of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED)

cricket Updated: Sep 14, 2017 16:27 IST
Bihan Sengupta
Bihan Sengupta
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Afghanistan national cricket team,Pakistan national cricket team,Shahid Afridi
Mohebullah Archiwal worked as a translator for the US Army but he is keen on promoting cricket in Afghanistan despite the many dangers still lurking in the war-ravaged nation.(Vice/Facebook)

Mohebullah Archiwal was born in war-torn Afghanistan and according to Jarrod Kimber’s write-up for ESPNCricinfo’s, “Archie” was simply fascinated with the duel between bat and ball.

In the land which is under constant threat of the Taliban which renounces having fascinations, cricket is a luxury.

But that did little to intimidate the boy who had to face the wrath of a Taliban patrolling officer simply because he was listening to Aamir Sohail and Saeed Anwar taking on India at will at the 1996 World Cup.

The radio was instantly broken and he didn’t get to hear Venkatesh Prasad shattering Sohail’s timber and a few million hearts in Pakistan later in the day.

Despite threats, lack of equipment and the fear of getting blown up, the gentleman’s game prevailed at the Marawara village in Kunar province where Archie hails from.

From rudimentary objects that looked like a bat and tapes wrapped around a round object to term it a ball, Archie wanted to play and promote cricket.

What resembled like a field was actually a wheat farm rented from one of the locals but that wouldn’t be a permanent solution. The Talibans started placing improvised explosive devices (IED’s) in their “stadiums” as well.

Usually the one to check for such objects before the start of a game, Archie simply couldn’t be held back from playing cricket in a fearless manner. After all, he idolised Shahid Afridi and the flamboyance of the former Pakistan captain simply raised his spirits. Afridi’s volatile and dazzling nature of countering an opposition attracted millions of fans all around the world, including Archie.

Archie joined the US military as a translator, invited officers to play cricket with the local boys and tried to pump in money to his native village after countries like India, Germany and America invested in Afghan cricket.

Mohebullah Archiwal currently lives in Kansas and is accumulating money to build a cricket ground in his home village of Marawara. (Cricket Monthly)

According to Archie, he was called for a selection to represent his nation where the selectors had asked him for money in exchange. A prompt denial to fall in line meant he was left out.

Nonetheless, he never went on the backfoot. He had a particular liking for his cousin Farman, who people claimed was as fearless and daunting as Archie.

Besides being a friend, Farman was soon the one who would deliver his love-letters, shop for him and so on…

But the partnership failed to last long. The Taliban succeeded. It was on one such fateful morning that Archie hadn’t checked for IEDs in his home and just as Farman stepped out, the blast erased everything that of his cousin but a finger.

The damage was irreparable. His services for the US helped him apply for a Special Immigrant visa and unlike most, he had to wait only six months before an approval.

Archie currently lives in Kansas and works in the International Rescue Committee during the day and goes around schools, churches and the nearby localities to spread word on cricket with a certain Edward Fox with who owns a small cricket field.

However, he is not living the American dream yet. The brute reality still makes him save up money and send it back to Marawara where he wants to build a cricket ground. He hardly keeps in touch with his family back home but he just wants them to embrace the gentleman’s game and live happily.

First Published: Sep 14, 2017 14:38 IST