Some good news from Afghanistan

The country has qualified for the 2015 Cricket World Cup to be played in Australia and New Zealand. Given the fact that this country has been in pretty much a permanent state of major war for the past three decades, that turmoil in the country has seemed to be continual fact of life, and the fact that cricket is relatively new to that country, this is a remarkable achievement.

The World Cup format consists of 14 teams, initially split into two group of seven each, with four from each group moving onto to the second round. The countries expected to advance are the traditional powers England, South Africa, India, Australia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, West Indies, and New Zealand, but the gap between those teams and the next tier of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe is narrowing rapidly and either or both of them could well pull off an upset and displace one of the favorites from the second round. The remaining teams of Ireland and Afghanistan and two teams yet to qualify (likely to be from Scotland, Netherlands, Canada, Ireland, and Kenya) are less likely to advance in this competition (though Ireland did do so in 2007) but it would be thrilling if they did make it.

I am really surprised at the increasing worldwide popularity of cricket, with many more nations taking up the game. Right now there are 10 full members of the International Cricket Council, 37 countries that are Associate Members where the game is “firmly established and organised but do not qualify for Full Membership” and 60 nations that are affiliate members where cricket is played. The US has been an Associate member since as far back as 1965 but has not made much headway.

Afghanistan is the newest nation to achieve Associate status, doing so only in 2013, so its achievement is all the more remarkable.