"QUESTION: ... This is about sports. Afghanistan cricket team defeated American U.S. cricket team in Dubai in the Twenty/20 match. Cricket is not very popular here, but it is very popular in Afghanistan. Any comments on that? People are very happy in Afghanistan about this, defeating a U.S. team in cricket.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I am not familiar with the result. But certainly we always are good sports, and congratulate the victors."
- from a media conference call with Philip J. Crowley, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs, US Dept of State, 11.2.10
"At the International Cricket Council World 20 Qualifier in Dubai, Afghanistan defeated the United States by 29 runs, 135-to-106. The loss eliminates the US from the tournament."
- fourth and last item in KLIV 1590 Silicon Valley's sports update, 11.2.10
As a cricketing encounter there was absolutely no surprise when Afghanistan defeated the United States of America by 29 runs in their Group A match of the ICC World Twenty 20 Qualifiers in Dubai on Thursday. Afghanistan came close to a shock qualification for the 2011 World Cup when they performed well in the fifty-over qualifiers in South Africa last year, and had won their two previous matches in this tournament (against Ireland and Scotland) to finish top of their group.
USA, whose team song should be Bruce Springsteen's "One Step Up And Two Steps Back", were surprisingly plucked out of the depths of ICC World League Division Five and given a unique wildcard entry in this tournament. They did manage an upset win over Scotland on Tuesday, but returned to true form the next day, being 11 for 5 and 25 for 6 before losing by 78 runs to Ireland.
One thing that could not be said about Thursday's game, however, that it was "politically charged", despite some of the more nonsensical efforts to beat it up. Iran v USA at the 1994 FIFA World Cup this was not. Nor was it the USSR v Hungary in the 1956 Olympic Games water polo. Nor, indeed, each and every cricket match between India and Pakistan.
It should be noted that not one member of the USA team in this match was American-born. Forget playing that other Springsteen song.
The rise of the Afghan national team over the past couple of years is a great story of triumph over adversity, even if they don't make it to the twelve-team World Twenty20 in the West Indies in April. (And as I write this, they've just suffered their first loss of the tournament to the Netherlands.)
The USA team's next gig begins in Kathmandu on February 20, as one of six teams competing in ICC World Cricket League Division Five. (Their opponents are Bahrain, Fiji, Jersey, Singapore and host nation Nepal.)
Effectively, the USA is ranked number 30 in the world of fifty-over cricket. Afghanistan is 15, with the Test nations 1-9.
President Obama, are you watching? At least get someone in your State Department to take an interest, hey?