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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Rising Afghanistan cricket star Munir Ahmed focused on his future – without forgetting his past

Up and coming wicketkeeper-batsman tells Amith Passela about his early struggles in life, even as he looks ahead to a bright future

Munir Ahmed, Afghanistan's young reserve wicketkeeper-batsman is learning the ropes quickly. Reem Mohammed / The National
Munir Ahmed, Afghanistan's young reserve wicketkeeper-batsman is learning the ropes quickly. Reem Mohammed / The National

Munir Ahmed's humility is most evident when he narrates his life story.

Like most children growing up in Afghanistan, he has had to traverse rough roads to realise his childhood dreams – one of which is to represent his country in cricket.

After years of working hard and making sacrifices, the young wicketkeeper has been picked to play for the national team in the Asia Cup, to be held in the UAE from September 15-28. Quite naturally, the former Under 19 and U23 player considers it the biggest break of his life and career.

Munir, born and raised in Kandahar, values every step he took towards this end. Just as importantly, he remembers all the support he received from his four older brothers.

“One of my brothers was a cricket coach, but the others toiled in menial work and had to travel to far off places from home to support me,” he said, recalling the hardships of playing the game full time in the country.

“I spent most of my time training and playing cricket, and constantly proving my potential to be called up by the national team. I could have done this only with the help of my family," he pointed out.

"I wouldn’t have reached this level if not for them."

Munir is determined, therefore, to repay his debt of gratitude to them one day. "I wish my time will come soon to help them to elevate their lives," he said.

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The 22-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman was picked for the continental championship on the basis of a successful domestic season. He averaged 49.86 for Boost Region, one of the six first-class teams in the country. He was also brilliant in List A games, scoring at 48.42 runs per innings.

Munir began dreaming of playing for Afghanistan back in 2009. It happened when the national team made an important breakthrough in their history – in far away South Africa.

The Afghans were bidding to qualify for the 2011 50-overs World Cup, and while they failed to do that, they gained one-day international status from the International Cricket Council following their success in Division Three of the World Cup League.

Munir cannot forget the day the team arrived home.

“The players were given a hero’s welcome when they returned,” he recalled. “That’s when I seriously thought to give a career in cricket a try.

"I wanted to be like them one day."

Nine years later, he is in the team – and he is soaking up the moment.

“To make it into Asian Cup squad itself is an achievement for me,” Munir said. “It’s my first tour and just sitting with my teammates is a proud moment for me."

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More on Asia Cup:

Paul Radley: Afghanistan's Asia Cup ambitions embodied by Mujeeb Ur Rahman

Spinner Rashid Khan backs Afghanistan to lift Asia Cup - if they hold their nerve

Talking points: Team guides, fixtures and TV details for all the action in the UAE

Lowdown: Everything you need to know about the 2018 Asia Cup in the UAE

Hong Kong not fazed by challenge of Pakistan and India at the Asia Cup

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Afghanistan's wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammed Shahzad is pleased with the way his understudy is developing. AP Photo
Afghanistan's wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammed Shahzad is pleased with the way his understudy is developing. AP Photo

Munir continues to find the support he needs for his continued development.

“The seniors have made my life very comfortable and that’s very encouraging on my first tour,” he said. “I am learning every day."

The positivity is mutual, with Afghanistan wicketkeeper Mohammed Shahzad extremely pleased with his understudy.

“He’s made it into the national team on the back of an excellent domestic season, particularly with his batting,” Shahzad said. “His focus has been on his batting and now we are working on his keeping."

The 30-year-old opening batsman said one of the good things about Munir was that he willing to learn fast.

"He’s got age on his side," he said. "He has just entered the big stage, but I’m sure he’ll be as good as anyone in the team after a couple of more tours.”

Munir's journey has indeed only just begun, but he knows what to do when he is given a game. "I’m ready to play any time when the opportunity arrives," he said.

"I don’t know when that moment will arrive, but I’m ready to grab it whenever my time comes.”

Munir Ahmed has received plenty of support from his seniors in the Afghanistan cricket team. Reem Mohammed / The National
Munir Ahmed has received plenty of support from his seniors in the Afghanistan cricket team. Reem Mohammed / The National
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