Afghanistan’s Ramadan challenge

Observing a fast during the holy month of Ramadan isn’t easy when cricket has to be played.

All members of the Afghanistan contingent have been observing the holy fast.   -  Sandeep Saxena

Playing cricket in the extreme summer heat in India is no joke.

In the recently-concluded Indian Premier League, the matches often got prolonged since cricketers across the world struggled to keep themselves hydrated. Imagine the physical strain on the body when a team has been doing it while fasting the whole day. Welcome to the plight of Afghanistan during its ongoing three-match T20 series against Bangladesh.

Ever since they arrived in the hill-station more than a week ago, all the members of the Afghanistan squad, along with the executives of the Afghanistan Cricket Board, have been observing the holy month of Ramadan to the tee. As a result, all the players have sehra — the pre-sunrise meal — around 4am and then don’t even consume water till the post-sunset iftaar.

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In fact, since the sun has been setting around 7pm, considering the players’ need for the dinner, the start time of the matches was postponed to 8pm. As a result, it has been kind of strange to see only one team warming up in the half hour between the toss and the start of the match. While a majority of Bangladesh players loosen their bodies up, the Afghanistan group go through the warm-up drills from 6pm to 7pm before heading into the change room for the customary namaaz and iftaar before taking the field.

Difficulties

The change in body clock takes a huge toll on the players’ bodies. Rashid Khan, the star leg-spinner, admitted after Sunday’s first match that the challenge had increased manifold considering they were observing “roza,” the Ramadan fast. The rigours haven’t really reflected in Afghan boys’ performance on the field as they have managed to retain the intensity and effectiveness so far in the series. Even the players’ aggression — as was evident during fast bowler Shapoor Zadran's celebration on Sunday — hasn’t dropped a wee bit.

Bangladesh, on the other hand, isn’t being hampered with the same problem as much. Only three Bangladesh players — Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahmudullah and Mehdi Hasan Miraj — have been maintaining the fast during the holy month. Its cricketers may have realised the need to maintain an athletes’ routine, having gone through the rigours of international cricket much longer than their south Asian counterparts.