Afghanistan head coach Lance Klusener said the country’s new Taliban government is “extremely supportive of cricket”.
And Klusener should know better than most what it has taken for the side to get there against a backdrop of instability back home, after all he is their coach.
The former all-rounder has been prevented from getting too hands on in Kabul thanks to Covid restrictions and the civil and political unrest, but working with the team in other territories he has seen up close just how brilliantly they have done to avoid the group stages and go straight into the Super 12s as one of the best eight teams in the rankings.
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“Every game is an away game for us,” Klusener told Mirror Sport. “And I don’t think people quite realise how tough the challenge is for our side.
“For what they’ve achieved in the short space of time, 20-odd years, to really just pre-qualify for a T20 World Cup, that’s just phenomenal.
“Everyone is self-taught and self-modelled. There is no formal coaching in schools or things like that.
“That is the exciting part. There are some serious skills going around and it is about allowing that maverick cricket play out and refining the skills to bring more success.
“It’s always difficult but I don’t think it’s been a lot different to what it’s been like in the past, and the new government has been extremely supportive of cricket.”
The Taliban took political control of the country back in August which sparked huge upheaval as many people fled the country for fear of a return to the brutal regime that operated between 1996 and 2001.
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Captain Mohammed Nabi tweeted at the time: “As an Afghan, I bleed to see where my beloved country is today.”
However, Klusener’s impression appears to be borne out by Afghanistan Cricket Board Chairman Azizullah Fazli who told Al Jazeera: “The government has told us it will support us in any way needed. They said they support cricket and are fully behind the development of the game.”
And crucially they say there is no ban on women’s sport, especially cricket, which is a must for any full member nation of the ICC.
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Over the next few weeks, they should cause an upset or two at the T20 World Cup because they have got arguably the best spin attack in the tournament and they are playing for more than just silverware.
Klusener added: “We do rely on Rashid Khan a little bit, but for him to be able to shine for us we need to put enough runs on the board. We’re going to be a handful if we can consistently find enough runs.
“And if we can just put some smiles on some faces back home and take people away for three and a half hours out of the day then we will have done a lot.
“The boys are acutely aware of that responsibility, not only towards each other but they have got a responsibility to each and every person back home as well.”