T20 World Cup kicks off amidst Caribbean Carnival

Zeecric Bureau

Guyana: Caravan of cricket returned to the Caribbean Islands with a modest opening ceremony ahead of the first match between Sri Lanka and New Zealand, here in Providence stadium at Guyana.

ICC T20 World Cup hopes to wash away the ugly memories of a disappointing and yet an eventful 50-over World Cup three years ago in the islands nation.

The tournament is special because it marks Afghanistan`s journey from dusty borderland refugee camps to cricket`s global elite.

The war-torn nation has risen swiftly through the ranks of the game`s minnows to reach the international tournament in the Caribbean where they will also face South Africa in the group stage.

Afghanistan`s progress from being ranked 29th in the world and playing, just two years ago, in Division Five of the ICC`s structure, is a heartwarming example of sport giving some cheer to a country that has been blighted by violence and political strife.
But according to their Pakistan born coach Kabir Khan there is no question of the Afghans, who started their qualification progress playing against the likes of Japan and Vanuatu, being in the West Indies to simply enjoy the experience.

"The players and all of us are excited about the first game against India. We are not just coming here to participate in the tournament. We want to give them tough cricket, fight hard and maybe make an upset," he said.

For several players their involvement in a game, which does not have a strong tradition in their country, began in the camps of North West Pakistan as they and their families escaped conflict following the US led invasion of Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban regime in 2001.

Captain Nowraz Mangal learnt to play the game in one of those camps, bowling with a ball made out of cloth and shoes for stumps.