Two hundred aspiring cricketers received coaching from their international heroes at four MCC Spirit of Cricket camps held in Afghanistan.
The two-day cricket camps - held in the Eastern Afghanistan provinces of Laghman, Logar, Wardak and Khost - were organised by the charity Afghan Connection and supported by the Afghanistan Youth Cricket Support Organisation.
Members of the Afghanistan national team, who had recently made history by qualifying for the ICC World Twenty20 in the West Indies, met 50 young cricketers at each camp and passed on coaching tips and advice.
The camps were run by Raees Ahmadzai; coaches included Afghanistan captain Nawruz Mangal and team members Dawlat Ahmadzai, Ahmad Shah, Samiullah Shinwari and Mohammad Nabi, a former MCC Young Cricketer.
Many of these players were returning to their own communities for the first time since their Twenty20 qualification triumph.
Given the success of the national team, it was no surprise that the MCC Spirit of Cricket camps generated huge interest in a country bursting with cricketing pride.
In Laghman, over 5,000 people surrounded the venue for the camp, while 400 cars followed the Afghanistan team to the ground.
One of the cricket camp participants, 16-year-old Mohammad Imran, took four wickets in one of the matches and said afterwards: "I am very happy that I saw my stars in Laghman and I learn a lot from my stars. Inshallah one day I will play for Afghanistan."
Irfan, 17, an all rounder said: "I am a lucky boy and I am very happy that the national players came here and they have given us tips. Thanks to MCC and Afghan Connection for helping the young boys."
In Logar, school teachers participated in the camp to learn the basic skills required so that the benefits of the scheme may continue, through cricket coaching, after the camp.
The Governor of Wardak was so impressed with the MCC Spirit of Cricket Camp that he pledged US$10,000 toward the development of cricket in the area.
Similar celebratory scenes were witnessed at Khost, where more than 12,000 children came out to watch their heroes teaching cricket.
MCC & Afghanistan
Since 2006, when an MCC team led by Mike Gatting lost to Afghanistan in an inaugural match in Mumbai MCC, the world’s most famous cricket club, has played an active part in developing cricket in Afghanistan.
This has been achieved through funding the building of school cricket pitches and initiatives like the MCC Spirit of Cricket camps - the first of which was held in Jalalabad in May 2009.
Matthew Fleming, the former Kent and England all-rounder who now sits on the MCC Committee, has been central to MCC’s effort, visiting the country to oversee the progress of these grassroots cricket initiatives.
All of MCC’s work in the country is overseen by Afghan Connection, who have funding (from numerous sources) to run 30 MCC Spirit of Cricket Camps over the next three years and to build pitches and provide kit for 30 schools.
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