Afghan cricket team inspires documentary by Oscar-winner

London: The rise to prominence of war-ravaged Afghanistan`s cricket team has inspired Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes to help produce a documentary -- `Out of the Ashes` -- charting the side`s trials and travails.

"I was moved by the story and very taken by the vivid characters," the director of Oscar-winning film `American Beauty` said.

Afghanistan`s cricket team defied all odds to qualify for last month`s Twenty20 World Cup in the West Indies where it crashed out in the preliminary stage.

The country still doesn`t have a decent cricket pitch on which the players can practice after the 2001 American invasion.

Mendes said the team`s story is so heartwarming that he was instantly touched when another director Timothy Albone sent him the original documentary that charted its success.

"I loved it, but it struck me that a film about the Afghanistan cricket team qualifying for the World Cup was incomplete without seeing the completion of their dream," Mendes was quoted as saying.

"So I persuaded Tim and his co-directors to continue filming, and helped persuade the International Cricket Council to grant them full access to the tournament," he said.

The documentary, which will be premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on June 17, tracks former Afghanistan coach Taj Malik, who was at the helm when the team was playing qualifiers for the World Cup in Dubai.

The film shows the players having their moments of nervousness on landing in Dubai.

"God spare us from eating that pig meat," one player is shown as saying.

"We`ll eat vegetables," suggest others.

"What do you think the girls will be like?" they say.

"I`m sure they will be pretty. In those foreign countries the weather is so nice everyone is fresh with brighter skin."

Taj was replaced by Pakistani Kabir Khan during the course of the qualifying. Under Khan, Afghanistan went on to win divisional tournaments in Tanzania, Buenos Aires and South Africa to make the main event against top teams like India.

"Sport and art bring countries together, when everything else seems to be pushing them apart. Out of the Ashes puts a human face to a nation that many have turned their back on," Mendes said.