Bowling the Taleban a Googly

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Matthew FlemingFormer England cricketer Matthew Fleming is helping to make a difference to the lives of children in Afghanistan by teaching them England’s finest export. Fleming, a 44-year-old former Royal Green Jackets officer, described how he felt compelled to help the grassroots game in the war-torn country. “People were saying they thought we had done our bit in Afghanistan. But as an ex-soldier, I don’t think we have while there are still British fighters in the country.”

This May, the MCC sponsored a cricket training camp in Jalalabad, where 150 boys trained with Fleming and Afghan international players. The former Kent captain said: “I’m not saying cricket is the answer to all Afghanistan’s problems, but sport and education are a very big piece of the jigsaw. By the end of the year we will have built between seven and nine pitches, and what’s really important with building pitches in schools is a lot have walls around them, which allows girls to play away from prying eyes.”

But Fleming admitted there were moments when he was forced to flee grounds, when angry locals took offence at his presence. He described how an angry Mullah stood at the side of a pitch where he was teaching, preaching vehemently against his lessons. Despite the dangers, Fleming believes cricket can make a difference in the country.

The Afghan national team gained one-day international status this year and just missed out on qualifying for the 2011 World Cup – despite only having been formed in 2001

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