Afghanistan on fast track to cricket glory

BUENOS AIRES - It has taken less than eight months for Afghanistan to jump from the fifth division of world cricket to one level below the major Test-playing countries.

BUENOS AIRES - It has taken less than eight months for Afghanistan to jump from the fifth division of world cricket to one level below the major Test-playing countries.

The team from the war-torn nation continued one of sport's unlikeliest success stories by winning the third division in Argentina last week, a six-team tournament which doubles as a qualifier for cricket's World Cup.

Only last May, Afghanistan were playing in the fifth division of the International Cricket Council's (ICC) world league.

Having finished top of that in a tournament played in Jersey, they then came top in the fourth-division tournament in Tanzania last October.

In April, they travel to South Africa with a chance of qualifying for the 2011 World Cup or gaining coveted one-day international status.

National television reports chart the team's progress and thousands of people turn out to welcome them home after their tournament wins.

Coach Kabir Khan describes his team as ambassadors for the country, offering a change from the stereotyped image of religious fanatics and interminable violence.

"Cricket is getting a huge following and the other thing, it brings people together as well," he said, adding that the players never discussed politics among themselves. - Reuters

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