Afghanistan joins the big time

Submitted by Rick Eyre on February 16 2010, 1:33 pm

Afghanistan defeated Ireland at the Dubai International Sports Centre on Saturday night to win the final of the 2010 ICC World Twenty20 Qualifying Series. Both have earned a place in the ICC World Twenty20 in the West Indies in a couple of months time, but it's the Afghan rise to the big time that has gathered all the attention.

Here are three reports from the excellent Al Jazeera English covering Afghanistan's progress through the ICCWT20Q's last week. (total running time approx 8 minutes - story continues below)

Pity, then, that there has been next to no reportage on the event from the US media, even with the clash against the USA during the week. Presumably the networks have assigned all their Sporting Tearjerker Units to Vancouver for the Winter Olympics.

To be fair, the American ABC's Pakistan correspondent Nick Schifrin did blog about the Afghan team on his network's website last Thursday, and later tweeted that there would be a story on Saturday's Good Morning America - though I can find no further reference to this.

I've linked to some of the reportage of Afghanistan's ICCWT20Q victory through my Newsvine site. Afghanistan will be grouped with India and South Africa in Group C of the carefully-titled ICC World Twenty20 this May. Contrary to popular perception, it's not a world cup and not a world championship. Just a tournament called the "World Twenty20". Tell that, of course, to India (winners 2007) and Pakistan (winners 2009).

Before then Afghanistan have two one-day internationals against Canada in Sharjah, the first of those later today, followed by a four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup fixture against the Canadians, also at the former Home of Middle East Cricket, starting Saturday.

I just hope they use wisely the Nissans that each player has reportedly received after winning the ICCWT20 qualifiers.

Ireland deserve congratulations as well, and they had the rougher end of the draw on Saturday, having just an hour's break between their group match against the Netherlands and the final against Afghanistan. Still, I have trouble sympathising with the complaint of the Ireland coach, former West Indian all-rounder Phil Simmons, as reported in Sunday's Belfast Telegraph:

"Five matches in six days was ridiculous"

That's five Twenty20 games we are talking about. All up, they batted and fielded for a total of 190.5 overs in the whole week of the tournament. Overwork, Simmo, is not something to complain about.