In most parts of rural Asia, cricket is seen as a luxury sport. The equipment, lush outfield, coaches with sound technical knowledge and several other technologies define the modern game. All these requirements are out of reach for people who barely manage to make ends meet.

In most countries of the sub-continent, poverty is rampant. Yet, out of the 11 Cricket World Cups played till date, four have been won by Asian countries. Australia, considered one of the richer countries, have won five.

While India have grown in stature since their first World Cup in 1983, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have had a rollercoaster ride, both cricket-wise and socially. But, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are powerhouses of cricket in Asia. They are a long way ahead of their neighbours, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who have already taken the world by storm. Bangladesh’s Shakib Al Hasan is currently the leading all-rounder in all three formats, while Afghanistan sensation Rashid Khan continues to rule the T20 leagues all over the world.

The case of Afghanistan is an example. The country has been ravaged by decades of war and misrule by the Taliban. After the US invasion that toppled the Taliban, life is slowly coming back to normal but challenges remain. Most people fight an uphill battle in achieving their dreams in a country that is slowly coming to grips with globalization and digital media. Afghanistan’s Mohebullah Archiwal is one of them. According to an article written by Jarrod Kimber for thecricketmonthly.com, “Archie” was born in war-torn Afghanistan, and was simply fascinated with the duel between bat and ball.

In the land of the Taliban, however, there were dangers galore. As a boy, he had to face the wrath of a Taliban patrolling officer simply because he was listening to Aamir Sohail and Saeed Anwar taking on India in the 1996 World Cup. The radio was broken and he could not hear Venkatesh Prasad shattering Sohail’s timber and a few million hearts in Pakistan later in the day. Cricket continued.

Despite threats, lack of equipment and the fear of getting blown up, the gentleman’s game has prevailed at Marawara village in Kunar province. From rudimentary objects that looked like a bat to tapes wrapped around a round object, Archi wanted to ensure that cricket, which had the potential to bring peace in his land, should be continued. What resembled a field was actually a wheat farm rented from one of the local farmers but that wouldn’t be a permanent solution. The Taliban started placing improvised explosive devices (IED’s) in their “grounds” as well.

Usually the first one to check for such objects before the start of a game, Archi was fearless in his cricket and in life. After all, he idolised Shahid Afridi, one who defined aggression and flamboyance. Afridi’s volatile and dazzling nature of countering an opposition attracted millions of fans all around the world, including Archi.

He joined the US military as a translator and invited officers to play cricket with the local boys. He tried to pump in money to his native village after countries like India, Germany and USA invested in Afghan cricket. At one point, Archi found he could trust the US more than his own people because he found there wasn’t much corruption among the Westerners and their disciplined lifestyle also fell in line with an ardent follower of cricket.

Archi hated corruption. After being called for a selection to represent his nation, he recalls an incident where the selectors had asked him for money in exchange. A prompt denial to fall in line meant he fell out.

Despite the setback, he never went on the back foot. He had a particular liking for his cousin Farman, who people claimed was as fearless and daunting as Archi. Besides being a friend, Farman was soon the one who would deliver his cricketing 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 Archi hadn’t checked for IEDs in his home. Just as Farman stepped out, one blast from an IED took his life. It was this one odd delivery that did not land in the right areas.

He had a love-hate relationship with his father who would beat him. However, like the Taliban, the young Archi knew it wasn’t right to answer back. He accepted it as his fate. Yet, after Farman passed away, that treatment came from his mother, someone who had never raised her hand on Archi in all these years. The damage was irreparable. His services for the US helped him apply for a Special Immigrant visa and he had to wait only six months before an approval.

He 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’s not living the American dream. The harsh reality of life in war-ravaged Afghanistan still makes him save money and send it back to Marawara where he wants to build a cricket ground. Only two people know his number back in his village. He doesn’t have an account on Facebook, neither does he want to stay in touch with people back home. Yet, he wants them to embrace the gentleman’s game and live happily.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/cricke...8YLApxSDP.html