This weekend, while Cook, Pietersen and company were piling on the runs in Adelaide... while a depleted Indian ODI side was cruising to an unassailable 3-0 lead against New Zealand... and while torrential rain was frustrating both the West Indian tourists and their Sri Lankan hosts... over in Dubai, Afghanistan's cricketers were collecting yet another piece of silverware. This time it was the ICC Intercontinental Cup, the first-class tournament between the world's leading non-Test nations. The Afghans drew their opening game back in August - their first taste of four-day cricket - before winning six on the trot to finish as unbeaten champions. Given that they also beat Ireland to win the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier earlier this year, are they now at the top of the waiting list for (though admittedly still a long way off) Test status? Certainly they've continued to improve rapidly since narrowly missing out on World Cup qualification in April 2009.
Back in February, I blogged about the fact that I was waiting for the release of "Out of the Ashes," a documentary following the Afghan team's remarkable rise "from refugees to the world stage." Since then, the film has gained Sam Mendes as an Executive Producer, been named "Best of the Fest" at the Edinburgh Film Festival and won an international peace and sport prize. Last month, I finally got to see it, thanks to an eagle-eyed friend who spotted that it was out on (very) limited release in London.
For me, "Out of the Ashes" lives up to the hype. The team's on-field successes are documented without any hint of Hollywood schmaltz and the film's broader message - a plea to the world to remember that there is more to Afghanistan than the Taleban and the car bombs in Kabul - is all the more poignant for the fact that it comes straight from the mouths of the protagonists rather than any narrator or commentator. Perhaps my only gripe is that seamer Hamid Hassan, arguably the team's best and most charismatic player, is never interviewed in the film. Hassan's blog posts for Cricinfo have earned him and his team plenty of fans, so it's puzzling that he doesn't feature more prominently. This is, however, a pretty minor gripe. Overall, I wholeheartedly recommend the film. Go see it if you're in London in January, or buy the DVD when it comes out in February. Any cricket fan with a heart can't help but be touched by this story.