By Chayanika Saxena
It is for no small reason that the game of cricket is called a 'religion' in its own right. What had till now done many in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka proud internationally is making just the right kind of noise in a country that has been hearing nothing but the din of chaos - Afghanistan.
Having made their mark in international cricket, two players from the Afghan national cricket team - Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi - have been plugged into a team that plays the pompous and exuberant Indian Premier League. The Indian Premier League is a domestically played series of T-20 matches between teams that are named after different regions/cities of the country.
Domestic cricket in its essence, the IPL however has a unique international flavor as it draws talent from different national teams from around the world. South Asian representation too is a feature of this format, with the IPL seeing players from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka participating in them. In fact, until a while ago, even Pakistani players were bid for huge bags of money till they victims of the India-Pakistan political and diplomatic estrangement.
The two Afghan players - Khan who has been selected by Sunrisers Hyderabad for a massive sum of INR 4 crore and Nabi who is in the same team and was picked up first for INR 30 lakh - are spinners who have a good record to boast. Prior to their upcoming stint in the Indian Premier League, both Nabi and Khan have played in Bangladesh Premier League and the Pakistan Premier League, both poorer cousins of IPL in terms of money earned by the players and their drawing power.
More than their performances, which will be keenly followed, it is the rise of the Afghan national cricket team and its sportspersons that is catching attention. Braving many odds, the country's endless violence, sectarian conflicts, poor infrastructure, including the absence of a well-functioning cricket stadium for practice in their home country (the Afghan team has been allowed to adopt the Greater Noida cricket stadium as their home pitch), the team has come a long way to assume the 9th spot internationally among the best T20 teams and has a huge fan following in an otherwise divided country.
(Chayanika Saxena is a Research Associate at the Society for Policy Studies. He can be contacted at email@example.com)