IN A bid to showcase its soft-power diplomacy in war-torn but cricket-loving Afghanistan, the Ministry of External Affairs has decided to invite proposals from filmmakers for a documentary on two of that country’s most popular cricketers: Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi.
Under the working title ‘Afghan Cricketers: The Rising Stars’, the Ministry wants the short movie to be made in English in three formats — a 10-minute complete version; a shorter 5-minute version; and, a 2-minute promo.
Officials said the movie will target the international and domestic audience, and showcase the journey of young leg-spinner Rashid Khan and veteran all-rounder Mohammad Nabi from the national team to the international platform and in IPL 2017.
During the IPL auction in February, Nabi became the first Afghan cricketer to enter the Twenty20 league after he was picked up by Sunrisers Hyderabad for his base price of Rs 30 lakh. Then, Khan hit the headlines after he was roped in by the same team for Rs 4 crore.
“The treatment and storyline should be fast paced, engaging to watch, cohesive and creatively presented. Narration or an anchor-driven approach may be chosen without long monologues,” an official told The Indian Express.
Officials said the film “should briefly introduce the life of cricketers and after that their rise in cricket, their participation in the IPL auction and selection”.
“It should also showcase the journey of these cricketers from the streets of Afghanistan to the international platform with their excellent performance,” an official said.
“This film will be shot during IPL… video clips from cricket matches and interviews of various cricketers, and the two players and their families, will be included in this film,” the official said.
With archival footage and music score, South Block officials want the rough cut from movie-makers by May 10. “We want to showcase Afghan talent during the IPL season…It means a lot for Afghanistan and India’s relationship,” said the official.
Sources said the government wanted to showcase the “good neighbour” story from Afghanistan.
“The subtle message is to Pakistan…that Pakistan exports terrorism, and that is the reason their players have not been allowed to play in Indian domestic cricket. Whereas Afghanistan, which has suffered terrorism, has exported talented players, and the Indian people and the government are welcoming their participation,” an official said.
Sources said Afghanistan’s ambassador Shaida Abdali; former Indian ambassador to Afghanistan Amar Singh, who is now secretary (economic relations) in MEA; current Indian ambassador to Afghanistan Manpreet Vohra; and, official spokesperson Gopal Baglay, who was joint secretary Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran were among the key officials who came up with the idea.
The diplomatic and political backdrop of this venture is also relevant since Afghanistan has been supportive of India on isolating Pakistan after the Uri attacks.
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani was one of the first to call for a boycott of the SAARC summit in Islamabad last year. Ambassador Abdali had also endorsed India’s surgical strikes across the LoC.
“They are Afghanistan’s young brand ambassadors… when people think of Afghans, they don’t just think of Taliban and terrorism, they should think of good cricketers like Rashid and Nabi. And India is helping us create that brand image,” said an Afghan diplomat.