Nagpur is an unexceptional city in Central India. It is not a tourist destination and has little of interest to entice visitors off India's rich cultural trail. But it has one gem which will certainly draw the crowds over the coming weeks - the cricket stadium.
The joy of cricket and the joy of winning was in full evidence yesterday at Nagpur Stadium where Afghanistan played Scotland in the opening round of the T20 World Cup. The irresistible pull of the Afghanistan National Cricket Team had drawn me to Nagpur where I was joined by AC Chairman, Sir Richard Stagg, KCMG, former British Ambassador to Afghanistan, who by good fortune was in the country on a business trip. I sensed that tourists were not a common site as everywhere we walked, we were stopped and asked to pose for photos. Beaming locals bombarded us with questions. Where were we from, who were we supporting, and why?
It is hard to explain in a few words the Afghan Connection, (AC) journey with Afghan cricket, which began with delivery of kit for the team back in 2008 when Afghanistan was in Division 5 and had little in the way of facilities and cricket equipment.
Since then, with financial support from the MCC, private donors and more recently, the UK Government, AC has funded 80 cricket pitch constructions in schools serving some 100,000 girls and boys, coached 4000 children and 180 teachers and held tournaments across Afghanistan. And since then Afghanistan has risen through the cricket rankings and in 2015 played in the ICC World Cup in Australia. Cricket has gripped Afghanistan and rivals football as the nation's favourite sport. And so today, I am sorry Scotland, but after all the blood sweat and tears invested in Afghanistan, we are here to support them.