Nawroz Mangal: 'We no longer play only out of passion’

Nawroz Mangal recalled how a country ravaged by war went on to become the team that everybody loved to love.

After captaining Afghanistan in its formative years, and then, continuing as one of its main batsmen, the 34-year-old Nawroz took charge as the chief national selector. (File Photo)   -  Getty Images

From a vantage point in the stands at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Nawroz Mangal watched with obvious pride a bunch of young Afghan cricketers practising under a humid sun. He recalled how a country ravaged by war went on to become the team that everybody loved to love.

After captaining Afghanistan in its formative years, and then, continuing as one of its main batsmen, the 34-year-old took charge as the chief national selector. Yet, another dream of his has come true with the birth of the Afghanistan Premier League, which got underway, here, on Friday.

“This is a great moment for all of us associated with Afghanistan cricket. We have been able to create a league in a short span of time. The Afghanistan Cricket Board has been working extremely hard for the last six months or so,” Mangal told Sportstar.

He hoped the league would go a long way in the development of cricket in Afghanistan. “This is huge for our players as well as fans,” he said, in rather good Hindi (because of Bollywood, he would explain). The league has generated enormous interest back home.

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Mangal, who scored two 100s from the 49 ODIs he played, said that the APL would be particularly useful for the junior cricketers. “After watching domestic T20 leagues like the IPL and the BPL producing new stars, we felt something similar would happen in Afghan cricket too. About 45 of our promising young players are here for the APL,” he said.

He said that the national squad too would become stronger from the experience of playing with quality international cricketers at the APL. “It is great to see our team doing well at the international level. We have qualified for the World Cup, we have played our first Test and have just had an excellent Asia Cup. When we played at the same event in 2014, we were so inexperienced; it was our first ODI tournament. This time around, here in the UAE, we won the hearts,” he said.

He said that Afghan no longer participated in a tournament for the experience. “We want to be competitive and push stronger rivals. Earlier, we uses to play cricket only out of passion. Now, we play with an aim to do well all the time,” he said.

Mangal, who was part of Afghanistan's maiden World Cup campaign in 2015, said that he was expecting a good show from the team in England next year. “To do well at the World Cup is our next big target,” he said.

(The writer was in Sharjah at the invitation of DSPORT)