Brits take on Afghans in gentleman’s game
Just weeks after Royal Marines from 45 Commando took on the Afghan Army in rugby, soldiers in Helmand have challenged locals to a game of cricket.
The match was the brainchild of Lance Sergeant Richard Wooderson who is part of the Military Stabilisation and Support Team (MSST) working in the Nahr-e Saraj area of Helmand. An avid cricket fan, LSgt Wooderson was fully aware of the Afghan’s appreciation of the game and thought it would be a good opportunity to engage with the community of Gereshk.
“During the Cricket World Cup, the Afghans on camp were really enthusiastic and we often watched games together. We heard about Gereshk Cricket Club being the Helmand champions and given how sport brings people together, we thought it would be a good way to improve relations between those who live within the base walls and those outside.”
Setting up such an event obviously involved a great deal of co-ordination and support from many sections of Main Operating Base Price – the ISAF base in Gereshk. Civilian contractors from KBR provided the after match tea and cricket equipment while Central Asia Development Group (CADG) agreed to level the outfield to ensure there was a clear 22 yards ready for play.
The 20/20 match between members of MOB Price and Gereshk CC, who are the current Helmand champions, took place in the scorching desert sun. With temperatures topping 37 degrees it was as much a test of stamina as it was of skill.
The MOB Price team of British soldiers, civilian employees from Sri Lanka, India and Nepal as well as both local Afghan employees reflected the diverse nature of those based at the camp.
The Gereshk openers started well but three quick wickets put the visitors into a tricky position and despite a hard fight, the wickets kept tumbling and the MOB Price team proved too much for the Gereshk locals.
Although the match was only for fun, every contest must produce a winner and it was the MOB Price team who ran out eventual winners by 7 wickets. During the traditional tea of sticky buns, chocolate and biscuits, the trophy was accepted by the MOB Price team captain Capt Cooray from the Regimental Sergeant Major Peter Mason.
Despite the score, the District Governor of Gereshk, Muhayadin Khan, who had come to watch the match, said he was impressed by the idea:
“This was an important occasion and was a sign that things are improving in the Gereshk area. I hope events like this continue to happen in the future.”
At the end of the day, LSgt Wooderson presented the Gereshk team with two full sets of kit including pads, bats and gloves which had been donated from companies and friends back in the UK.
“They obviously love their cricket but getting hold of all the kit is almost impossible out here. We’d like to see more of these events taking place but without the equipment it won’t happen. The delight on their faces was clear to see. I just hope they don’t practice too much and get good enough to beat us!”
The MSST is now planning to create a league involving all those who live and work in Gereshk, Afghan National Army, Afghan Police, ISAF and Gereshk CC to bring the local community closer together.