Greater Noida: India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni's popularity has spread to war-torn Afghanistan where cricket is slowly catching on with the masses. Afghanistan cycling team, here for the Asian Championships, are enjoying their time in India and can't stop talking about their love for Hindi movies and the game of cricket which, they say, is gaining popularity back home.
"Football is the number one sport in Afghanistan but cricket has picked up really well in the last five years. I am confident we will become a strong cricketing nation in the near future," Anwar, secretary of Afghanistan Cycling Federation, told IANS.
The Afghanistan cricket team has qualified for the last two editions of the Twenty20 World Cup.
A file photo of India skipper MS Dhoni batting during a one-day international. (BCCI)
The cycling contingent comprises six men and three women, who love Bollywood and know more about Indian cricketers than their own cricketers. "Dhoni is the one I like most. This is despite the fact that I have not watched too much of cricket. I saw him for the first time in a TV commercial," said Salma Kakar, who hails from Parwan province and has beaten the odds to be in the sport.
Asked how tough it is for women sportspersons in Afghanistan, she said: "For us, the most challenging part is to train outdoors. The men stare at us and we have to make sure we are completely covered."
The other females in the team are Nazifa Hassani and Farzana Assadi.