London:Afghanistan is known across the globe for its mujahideen, guns and battles. Now, the war-torn country has found a new passion - cricket.
Come January and the country will move a step closer to qualifying for the 2011 Cricket World Cup.
Yes, two decades after cricket took hold among Afghan refugees sheltering in Pakistan from the Russian occupation, the national side could be just four months from joining the sport's top battle.
The team is flying to Argentina, where first or second place in the International Cricket Council league and division three, brings qualification for the World Cup qualifiers in South Africa in April, 'The Daily Telegraph' reported.
The Argentinian tournament follows a successful year, in which the Afghan side has rapidly scaled the lower leagues, winning both division five and four.
"I think, God willing, we stand a good chance," Allah Dad Noore, the President of the country's cricket federation and the father of Afghan cricket, was quoted by the leading British newspaper as saying.
But, to get this far, he has had to battle Taliban suspicion, government interference and a lack of funds. Years of fighting between the country's warlords hampered efforts to have the sport officially registered and the Taliban regime was deeply suspicious of the new sport.
"They would not agree to accept this game because they told me there was no cricket in Afghanistan. I said no, there will be in the near future as five million Afghans in Pakistan will soon come here and we will have to register," said Noore.
However, cricket was accepted by the regime after a senior Taliban official visited a provincial tournament and saw the support for the game. And, cricket matches now command large crowds and Jalalabad city alone has 66 clubs.