Afghanistan are a rising power in international cricket these days. In the World T20 2016 being played in India earlier this year, they were one of the top 10 teams, ahead of the likes of Zimbabwe and Ireland. The story of their rise has been exceptional. However, not many are aware of the hardships and struggles behind this rise.

The players of this war-torn nation had to seek refuge in neighbouring country Pakistan for years, until things got stable back home. One of many such players, who studied, grew-up and picked up the game of cricket in Pakistani city of Peshawar, is pacer Hamid Hassan. “I spent 15-16 years there, studied in an Afghan high school and I saw cricket first hand and fell in love with cricket,” said Hassan.

The cricketer, who became an overnight hero after his team won its maiden World Cup game during ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, once shared his story in an interview with Australian Daily Sydney Morning Herald.

Since his family wanted him to devote more time to studies, Hassan had to play the game in secret. “They didn’t allow me to play cricket so I hid playing cricket with my youngsters and mates,” Hassan was quoted as saying in the interview. His passion and devotion towards the game won his family over gradually, as they started doing what they could so he could play the game he loved.

“My elder brother, he supported me a lot during that period,” Hassan told the reporter. “My mum financially supported me, giving me money to buy shoes.” He repaid the faith his family had in him and ensured their sacrifices did not go in vain when he became the sixth fastest bowler to 50 wickets in ODIs. Today, he is an integral part of Afghanistan cricket team and also a mentor to the young pacers coming through the ranks.