Home > News >

Mohammad Nabi’s rise — From bullet-riddled walls to the ICC World Cup

From being a refugee in Pakistan to leading his homeland to the biggest cricketing event, Mohammad Nabi's journey characterises cricket's journey in Afghanistan as well © Getty Images
From being a refugee in Pakistan to leading his homeland to the biggest cricketing event, Mohammad Nabi’s journey characterises cricket’s journey in Afghanistan as well © Getty Images

Jan 6, 2014

Afghanistan all-rounder, Mohammad Nabi has been lauded for leading the country with a crushing win over Kenya to confirm their place in the 2015 cricket World Cup.

But the 29-year-old’s path to being named captain of the national team last year – before being removed and reinstated – has never been smooth.

Nabi was born at a refugee camp in Pakistan‘s northwestern city of Peshawar.

The war, insurgency and Taliban rule raged on across the border as Nabi and his family were deprived of visiting their homeland.

Since his childhood, he wanted to become a cricketer but his family, including nine chachas (paternal uncles), disapproved. However, Nabi persevered and devoted a lot of time to the sport as a schoolboy, sneaking out to train at a local club after having enough of the tennis-ball cricket. He had the talent and the urge, but, given the missiles, gunfire and sound of bombs going off in Peshawar, it was difficult to concentrate.

“I played cricket from a young age, but given the circumstances and what was going on around us and in Afghanistan, there was no way I would’ve imagined playing for my country let alone captaining it,” Nabi told Al Jazeera.

Nabi learned his cricket on the streets, in a similar manner to every child that plays the sport in Pakistan. Cricket equipment on the streets is often bare and shoddy – a bat, a makeshift wicket and a tennis ball wrapped up in tape. There are no green fields, no turf pitches and no boundary ropes.

The lucky ones get cemented pitches, yet rocks and pebbles on a sandy field are more common. Shoes are for the privileged and so is a branded, smooth bat that doesn’t threaten to give way at impact.

But as Afghanistan was cleared of insurgents, Nabi headed to Kabul to take part in a regional club tournament.

“When I visited Afghanistan for the first time, I was left traumatised,” Nabi said.

“It was distressing to see bullet-riddled walls – a complete disaster staring at me in the face.”

For all the excitement and promise, illness forced him to miss the tournament he had crossed the border for and although he surpassed his expectations at trials held for a grade II Afghanistan side, he wasn’t shortlisted. The promise, the willingness and recommendations came in handy as Nabi finally got the nod and that’s when he truly changed gears, realising it was now or never.

He scored often, bagged a lot of wickets and captained various sides in Pakistan and Afghanistan, culminating in him being appointed the permanent Afghanistan captain earlier last year.

“I’ve been very, very lucky in my journey to the top,” Nabi said.

“Self-learning – very important given the lack of mentors and guides we had in the early days – and the will to improve have been two key aspects of life that have helped me.”

Nabi was also invited to spend three months with the Marylebone Cricket Club as part of its young player programme after being spotted by former England captain Mike Gatting in India.

This opportunity helped him gain valuable experience of playing with and against quality players, at quality venues and being able to train with qualified coaches and using world-class equipment. Afghanistan did not have facilities of its own or even a proper cricket ground.

The team trained in Sri Lanka, Dubai and Lahore before finally settling down in Sharjah, calling it home. “It was unity and passion that drove us. We had formed a close bond in the dressing room – when we had one – and we knew the suffering and agony will pave way for a better future.”

“We were fighters, we were strong and we knew that patience and dedication will help us reach the target.”

The players were able to use world-class facilities to hone their skills, and play exciting and fearless cricket that helped them attract followers from all over the world.

“We are great crowd pullers – in a Karachi Ramazan tournament, the stadium was packed and there was absolutely no room to move so we had people sitting in trees along the boundary line.”

Afghanistan went on to win Division Five, Four and Three before qualifying for the ICC’s World Twenty20 twice and attaining One-Day International status.

In store for them along the steep rise was a welcome win against Pakistan in the semi-finals of the Asian Games.

Although Afghanistan lost in the final, and obtained a silver medal – they progressed beyond anyone’s hopes and expectations.

And then they qualified for the biggest event in cricket.

“Cricket is the fastest growing sport in our country, we have thousands and thousands following us on the radio or the tv and that’s not just in Afghanistan.

“Previously, we had been labelled as mere participants, now we were contenders, rising from the ashes and onto the podium.”

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 20, 2014 (14:30 IST)   at Kolkata

Pakistan vs Australia in UAE, 2014

Oct 22, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Dubai

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 22, 2014 (19:00 IST)   at Cuttack

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Oct 25, 2014 (09:30 IST)   at Dhaka

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 27, 2014 (03:00 IST)   at Hamilton

More

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 24, 2014  at Mount Maunganui

South Africa won by 72 runs

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 21, 2014  at Mount Maunganui

South Africa won by 6 wkts

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 17, 2014  at Dharamsala

India won by 59 runs

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 14, 2014  at Visakhapatnam

Match cancelled

Pakistan vs Australia in UAE, 2014

Oct 12, 2014  at Abu Dhabi

Australia won by 1 run

Photos

Pakistan vs Australia, 1st Test at Dubai

Videos

Amla feels Proteas more acclimatised to conditions

Pakistan eye victory as Australia reel at 59/4 at stumps on Day 4

Suresh Raina gifts Aditya Garhwal an autographed bat

Dwayne Bravo says West Indies pull-out had everybody’s consent

Bangladesh gain upper-hand over Zimbabwe at stumps on Day 1 of 1st Test

David Warner and others with records related to hundreds in consecutive Test innings

Australia Australia tour of UAE 2014 Australia vs Pakistan Australia vs Pakistan 2014 Duleep Trophy India New Zealand New Zealand vs South Africa 2014 Pakistan Pakistan vs Australia Pakistan vs Australia 2014 South Africa South Africa tour of New Zealand 2014 South Africa vs New Zealand 2014

Pakistan vs Australia 2014: Younis Khan considered skipping Tests

Michael Clarke: Younis Khan is one of the gentlemen of our game

Duleep Trophy 2014: Central Zone to meet South Zone in final

Pakistan eye victory as Australia reel at 59/4 at stumps on Day 4

Pakistan vs Australia 2014: David Warner admits that Australia is not scared of big targets

Younis Khan scores 26th ton to establish Pakistan record

Younis Khan becomes seventh Pakistani cricketer to score two hundreds in a Test

Virat Kohli and others with 20 ODI hundreds

David Warner and others with records related to hundreds in consecutive Test innings

Strangers, Brothers and Cricket— the English novelist CP Snow’s lasting passion for the game

Fan of the Day

Suraj Gowda

Suraj Gowda

642 Posts | 9 Fans

Virat Kohli's Family Meets Anushka Sharma

Pakistan vs Australia 2014: Younis Khan considered skipping Tests

Michael Clarke: Younis Khan is one of the gentlemen of our game

Apple to merge Beats Music with iTunes next year as music sales fall 14 percent in 2014: WSJ

Dear IAF, every smartphone not just Xiaomi could be a security threat

Top Sex Positions: Frog Princess

Bigg Boss 8 day 34 highlights: Salman Khan makes fun of Sonali Raut’s kamchor behaviour, RJ Pritam Singh entertains!

How to make tamarind or imli packs for hair and skin

Anil Kapoor ropes in a new director for son Harshvardhan’s next?

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here