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Tuesday, March 31, 1998 Published at 22:05 GMT 23:05 UK


Cricket takes off in Kabul
image: [ Cricket is enthusiastically played on waste ground in Kabul ]
Cricket is enthusiastically played on waste ground in Kabul

A new sport is gaining popularity in Kabul. Cricket is being played on waste ground in the city and Wednesday is the final of the first of this year's tournaments. The BBC's correspondent in Kabul, William Reeve, hopes to be there:

The game of cricket might sound incongruous in Kabul but it's now being played by six teams around the capital. Many of the players say they first learnt to play the game when their families fled to Pakistan from the fighting in Afghanistan.

When they returned from cricket-mad Pakistan they wanted to carry on playing and they've encouraged new enthusiasts. Cricket is now officially recognised by the Taleban's sports body.

One wit from the anti-Taleban alliance claimed the Taleban were encouraging cricket to keep any Pakistanis who might be fighting for the Taleban happy. All the players in Kabul, while amused by this comment, deny it's the case.

I got a letter from the Afghanistan Cricket Federation on headed paper, complete with the emblems of bat, ball and stumps, asking when cricket was first played. I told them I was not completely sure but that the last time the game was played in Kabul was most probably when the British army was here from 1839 to 1842 at the time of the first Anglo-Afghan war.

The British cantonment was very near one of the fields where the game is being played today. The Afghans won the war against the British all those years ago and two more later on, but players I spoke to in Kabul claim that cricket was derived from a game with bat and ball that's been played in Afghanistan for centuries.

It's called toop danda here which literally means bat and ball.

On a more serious note, sportsmen in Kabul say they're very unhappy about the national stadium and other sports grounds being used for public executions.

One said the national stadium should be used for sport and not for punishing people.

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