New Emissary

Out of the Ashes

Are Afghanistan’s cricket dreams dashed with the Asia Cup? Or just ‘rising out of the ashes?’

Has Afghanistan experienced a set-back in its world cricket ambitions? According to a piece in Indian Express today—yes. It suggests that despite the Afghan national cricket team in the past couple of years overcoming some pretty incredible odds (and along the way catching the world’s attention) it will now be taking a step back into obscurity with the upcoming Asia Cup. Afghanistan will not participate in this major event, despite the wishes of fans, who this year cheered the wonder team on at the World Twenty20 in April-May—which was the team’s first time taking part in a major international event.

Meanwhile, the much-hyped biannual Asia Cup 2010 tournament, established in 1983 to promote good ties among Asian nations, will take place in Sri Lanka from June 15 to 24 this year and include teams from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Past participants have also included Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates, but Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan hold the most wins.

Still, there may be hope in the future for Afghanistan’s national team down the road. A media officer for the Asian Cricket Council (ACC), responsible for hosting the game, was quoted saying in regards to future Afghan participation, ‘We hope that will change in the coming years and the next cycle of Asia Cup rights will include Afghanistan, if they retain the ODI status by then and qualify for the 2015 World Cup.’

But then again, Asia Cup or not, it also turns out that the Afghanistan national cricket team’s time in the international spotlight may be far from over.

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While it may be spending a little less time on the field, the team will in fact soon be sprinting into movie theatres and onto TV screens, as the subject of a new feature documentary called Out of the Ashes. Backed by producer Sam Mendes, also an Oscar-winning film director, the inspirational story follows the Afghanistan cricket team for two years ‘with unrestricted access,’ around the world as the players pursue their dreams of making it to higher professional cricket grounds. Some heart-warming and amusing points also include swimming in the ocean for the first time, eating fish and chips and crashing an English wedding.

The film’s director, Timothy Albone, has said that he hopes his work will inspire audiences to see the people of Afghanistan with a new perspective. Mendes himself has stated that he was initially stirred, like international fans, by the Afghan team’s story as well as drawn in by its ‘vivid characters.’ And he’s stated: ‘Sport and art bring countries together, when everything else seems to be pushing them apart. Out of the Ashes puts a human face to a nation that many have turned their back on.’