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Afghanistan's Daring Cricket Captain

Mohammad Nabi
Mohammad Nabi

Mohammad Nabi, Afghanistan's national cricket team captain, represents the rise of his side from adversity into an international cricketing sensation.

Playing its first 50-overs World Cup, Nabi's squad has already inspired their nation and won praise for their tenacity at the cricket's main international tournament.

Like most of his teammates, Nabi, 30, honed his cricketing skills on the dusty playgrounds of neighboring Pakistan as a young refugee boy.

"You play cricket a lot in refugee camps," he said when he first arrived in Australia for the World Cup this month.

Back home, he is now a heartthrob, and hundreds of thousands of Afghans are staying up late to watch the live television coverage of Afghanistan's contests.

"Now I am the captain of Afghanistan in the first World Cup," he said. "I am very happy to represent Afghanistan in the World Cup, and hopefully I'll enjoy the whole tournament."

Despite losing its first two group matches to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, Afghans view their team's participation in the contest as a special occasion after decades of war.

As one of the few Muslim nations that escaped European colonialism, Afghanistan had no cricketing heritage. It was Nabi's generation that brought the sport home from the Pakistani refugee camps.

Today, they have made Afghans proud by giving them a team to cheer for.

Nabi is an all-rounder, meaning he is equally good at batting and bowling.

In 2007, he made his first-class debut by playing for the Marylebone Cricket Club in England. He scored 43 runs and took one wicket against the visiting Sri Lankans.

In 2009, during the qualifying tournament for the 2011 World Cup, Nabi made his one-day international debut for Afghanistan against Scotland.

He was declared Man of the Match or player of the game after scoring 58 runs. But his side did not qualify for the World Cup even after winning the match.

Nabi's side, however, had better luck in Twenty20, a faster and shorter form of cricket contests. Afghanistan qualified for the 2010, 2012 and 2014 Twenty20 World Cups.

Nabi made an impressive 31 runs against cricketing giant India in the 2012 tournament.

The Afghans' years of hard work were finally rewarded in 2013, when their team secured a place in the 2015 World Cup. Afghanistan won most of its contests during the two-year qualifying tournament.

The same year, gunmen kidnapped Nabi's 60-year-old father for ransom in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad. It was a stark reminder of the prevailing hardships and insecurity in Afghanistan.

His father was safely recovered after three months when the authorities caught the kidnappers.

Back in Australia, Nabi initially aimed to secure a place in the quarterfinals of the World Cup. With a stroke of luck, Afghanistan might still end up there despite its early losses.

Afghan fans, however, are likely to accord a warm welcome to Nabi and his team when they return home after playing in their first-ever World Cup.

With reporting by Reuters