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Swapping Kalashnikovs for bat and pads: Afghan cricket, the Taliban and peace

Updated : 2019-04-02 12:27:49

During a lull in Afghanistan's never-ending war, before the fighting season resumes once again in the spring, Taliban fighters recall laying down their Kalashnikovs and, for a brief moment, enjoying a game of cricket. The sport is the only one most of the fighters enjoy, commanders say, with matches attracting hundreds of spectators from Taliban-controlled villages when there is no fighting. They are also fans of the increasingly successful national team. "I love cricket," said Mullah Badruddin, a Taliban commander in Khogyani district of Nangarhar, on the border with Pakistan, where a tournament organised by the militants at the start of last winter drew large crowds. "When Afghanistan play against another team, we listen to the radio with great interest and we also check for scores in social media and follow those in Facebook who give live updates," he told Reuters by telephone. First played in Afghanistan by British troops in the 19th Century, the game was adopted by Afghans in the refugee camps of cricket-loving Pakistan, where more than 3 million fled a Soviet invasion and civil war in the 1980s and 1990s, and has since made huge strides in the country, particularly among ethnic Pashtuns in the eastern border provinces.

Afghan boy wait for a brief dust storm to pass while playing cricket in Kabul, Afghanistan October 7, 2016. (Reuters/File Photo)
Afghan boy wait for a brief dust storm to pass while playing cricket in Kabul, Afghanistan October 7, 2016. (Reuters/File Photo)
Afghan men play cricket on a field covered in snow on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan December 16, 2017. (Reuters/File Photo)
Afghan men play cricket on a field covered in snow on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan December 16, 2017. (Reuters/File Photo)
Afghan men play cricket on outskirt of Kabul, Afghanistan May 15, 2017. (Reuters/File Photo)
Afghan men play cricket on outskirt of Kabul, Afghanistan May 15, 2017. (Reuters/File Photo)
Taliban gather to celebrate ceasefire in Ghanikhel district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan June 16, 2018. (Reuters/File Photo)
Taliban gather to celebrate ceasefire in Ghanikhel district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan June 16, 2018. (Reuters/File Photo)
Taliban walk as they celebrate ceasefire in Ghanikhel district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan June 16, 2018.(Reuters/File Photo)
Taliban walk as they celebrate ceasefire in Ghanikhel district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan June 16, 2018.(Reuters/File Photo)
Taliban walk as they celebrate ceasefire in Ghanikhel district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan June 16, 2018. (Reuters/File Photo)
Taliban walk as they celebrate ceasefire in Ghanikhel district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan June 16, 2018. (Reuters/File Photo)
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