Ihsan's Story: From Afghanistan to the YCF!
15-year-old Ihsan has been living in Leeds for the past 2 years after being displaced from his native Afghanistan by the ongoing war.
He now lives with his uncle and explained just how different life in England is and that despite the adversity back home, he developed a love for cricket at an early age.
Life was really hard in Afghanistan, a decade of war and threats from the Taliban meant I couldn’t use the local cricket pitches! My life was growing in a bad situation, I wasn’t even allowed to go outside. In Afghanistan people like cricket but they don’t have any facilities to teach more people.
Despite having very little freedom Ihsan fell in love with the sport by using a stone as a ball and he would spend time bowling to his younger brothers in whatever flat space they could find.
In 2001 the Afghanistan Cricket Federation was elected an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council, meaning Ihsan is part of the first generation in Afghanistan to embrace a formalized sport. Because of this, cricket has since risen to become the most popular sport in the country.
Since moving to Leeds has played for Kirkstall Education Cricket Club, and first came into contact with the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation via an indoor Wicketz session in Harehills run in partnership with CATCH and Positive Futures.
Wicketz, a national community cricket programme run by the Lord’s Taverners, provides young people, aged 8-16 who live in communities with little or no access to cricket, an opportunity to regularly play recreationally.
After seeing Ishan’s skills first hand, the YCF decided to support his development further by means of a financial bursary from their Michael Barker Fund, allowing him to take a place on Pro Coach’s Junior Professional Programme. He now harbours the ambition of becoming a professional cricketer, explaining that he is keen to improve his batting skills.
When I started the training, I got really forward in batting; timing; cutting and shots. Currently, I’m really focused on my batting because I believe I’m a good bowler, but I need to focus on my batting.
Of course, moving to a new country has also had its non-sporting challenges, such as learning the language and settling into a new school. Ishan explained how he has adapted and made plenty of friends in the local area.
Living in Leeds with my uncle is really good because I’m really safe here and I’m doing my education and playing cricket. I’ve got so many friends now and I’ve become best friends with a lot of British people [at school].
Next up for Ihsan is a trial for representative cricket at district level – so 2019 is shaping up to be a bright year for this young lad!
You can find out more about Wicketz Yorkshire here.