On an international level, Afghanistan is behind in many sports, but has managed to find success in cricket, playing competitively on an international level. The first Afghan cricket team faced many difficulties, with its origins in refugee camps and the lack of facilities available to them, but following on from their success, increased interest in the sport has led to new facilities to help cater for those wanting to train in the sport.
New cricket academies have been built in Jalalabad and Kabul, providing professional training to players from across the country. Khan Afzal came to the Jalalabad academy to help improve his cricket playing skills. He spoke about the benefits of having such academies within Afghanistan, “Before the academies were built here, you would have to travel to other places like Karachi, Lahore or Islamabad, if you wanted to improve or learn cricket. Now, these cricket facilities are at our door step and it is great for us to be able to pursue our interests in our own country.”
Visiting the academy, the success and subsequent demand for such academies is apparent, with around one hundred students visiting the academy daily. “By setting up more cricket academies, they can really play a big role in helping to find new talent for our national team,” Afzal commented.
Despite the improved facilities now available in such academies, some have commented on their limited access, due to the high fees required to train at the academy. Trainee Javed Akhunzada says that he pays 2000 afghanis per month to train at the academy. He suggested that the price should be lowered, “Most young people like myself cannot afford such high fees. The amount we pay currently is too high for people living in Afghanistan.” Following this up with officials from the academy, they state that the fees taken are a reasonable amount and the price is set, so that the correct facilities and equipment can be provided at the academy.
However, others argue that there are also problems with the quality and number of pitches available at the academy, as well as a lack of support from the Afghan cricket team. Ibrahim, who also trains at the academy says, “There are only two pitches here and these are made from mud, which is not correct for the sport. Some of the training is supposed to be given by the national cricket team players, but they rarely come to the academy. If the officials focus on improving the pitch and getting the cricket team more involved then the academy will be even better.”
Officials responding state that their main objective at the academy is to be able to provide facilities to play high quality cricket. They said that efforts were being made to improve the academy even further and that pitches conforming to an international standard would soon be in place.