Last week the Afghanistan Cricket Board concluded its annual flagship event, the Sixes Tournament 2014. A capacity crowd overflowed the Kabul Stadium for the last day and were treated to a surprise match before the big Final of the tournament when two of the country’s disability cricket teams displayed their skill in a 5 over match.
The crowd loved it and joined in the spirit of the event, roaring loudly for every ball. People outside of the stadium would have been forgiven for thinking the Afghan National Team was playing.
The 8,000 strong crowd was the largest Afghan audience ever to watch a match with teams comprised of players with physical disabilities. It was also the first time people had seen three batsman at the pitch – the third being the “runner” (pictured above).
Hundreds of thousands of Afghans live with disabilities caused by 30 years of war and landmines, birth impairments, inadequate healthcare, congenital disabilities, accidents, malnutrition and preventable diseases such as polio or tuberculosis.
Whilst no reliable statistics exist for people with disabilities in Afghanistan, estimates range from 6% up to 10% of the population of around 30 million. Whatever the exact figures, Afghanistan has a very high prevalence of disabled people.
Recognition of this has led the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) to develop a Disability Cricket Department and programmes for players with disabilities.
“Cricket has a tremendous amount to offer people with disabilities, Dr Noor Mohammad Murad, the CEO of the ACB said, “We are seeking to implement more programmes to ensure access to cricket for those who are disabled. We believe cricket can offer them new choices, possibilities and greater freedom. It can also improve their self-esteem and social inclusion.”
“We strongly support the philosophy that ‘disability is not inability’. The wonderful response of the large crowd to the short disability match before the Final of the Sixes Competition showed that ordinary Afghans strongly appreciate seeing young disabled cricketers participating in the game.”
The Afghanistan Cricket Board is seeking donors and sponsors to help increase access to the game for disabled people. In particular, the ACB is seeking support for the National Disability Team to attend two international disability tournaments at the end of 2014 and early in 2015.