Let’s try and put Afghanistan’s rate of improvement into perspective

Posted by
3 minute read

In the second series of Stranger Things, Dustin hears a noise in a bin. Ignoring the spooky music and his own fear, he goes and opens it.

Next thing we see is Dustin depositing a small obese newt thing into the tank he normally keeps his tortoise in. He feeds it a 3 Musketeers bar, making the wildly irresponsible assumption that this is an appropriate food for a creature he’s never seen before in his life.

Dart (all images via Netflix)

(According to Wikipedia, a 3 Musketeers bar is essentially a Milky Way without any caramel. It got its name because it originally came in three pieces, each with a different flavour, only for rising costs to result in strawberry and vanilla being phased out. Oddly they didn’t rename it a 1 Musketeer bar, but they absolutely should have done.)

Because of the 3 Musketeers bar, Dustin calls the creature D’Artagnan, which is pretty smart for a kid. Then, because he’s an American, he shortens it to Dart, which isn’t particularly smart, but is perfectly understandable because names always end up as one syllable eventually and you might as well just accept that.

Dustin keeps Dart. Dart grows. After about a day, he pops a pair of rear legs out – like this is the kind of thing you can just do on a whim.

Another day and he’s the size of a small dog and his head looks like this.

Next thing you know he’s the size of a person and he’s killing soldiers.

Turns out Dart’s a Demogorgon and honestly you don’t need to have a PhD in demonology to know that that’s a terrifying thing.

What’s interesting here is the rate of development. Things rarely progress that rapidly in real life, but one exception is the Afghanistan cricket team.

Afghanistan went out of the Asia Cup last year after a tied game against India. At the time we expected India to be largely unaffected by the experience and for Afghanistan to be somewhere around twice as good the next time they took the field because that’s the way that things seem to work with Afghanistan.

Let’s go back a little bit further so you get a better feel for what we mean by that.

Back in 2009 and 2010, Mohammad Nabi’s first few one-day internationals saw him make fifties against Scotland and Canada. Afghanistan actually lost the Canada match.

A year before that, the side had been scraping a win against Jersey in ICC World Cricket League Division Five. The target was 81 and they only made it with eight wickets down.

Nabi was out for two in that match, but he made another fifty in the 2018 tie with India and he made a 50 against them again in the 2019 World Cup in a match Afghanistan ultimately lost, but which somehow felt like a bigger result because they got so close and… well, because it’s the World Cup.

A fifty against India is a very different thing to a fifty against Canada. Same man, but things have moved on enormously.

Another example: Nabi was outscored in the Asia Cup tie with India by Mohammad Shahzad, who was out for 124 when the score was somewhat jarringly 180-6. Shahzad made a duck in the 2010 Canada defeat.

What we learn from this is that Afghanistan are a team who have at no point drawn any firm conclusions about how good they could be. At each step on their journey they’ve inevitably come up against a team that’s better than them and rather than take this as some sort of reality check, they’ve basically just resolved to instantly become better and then somehow achieved that.

Five of the side that beat Jersey have played for the national side in the last 12 months. They are basically the same bunch of guys.

One day you’re a little flappy newt in a fish tank, next day you’re a Demogorgon.

This is an updated version of an article first published on September 26, 2018.


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


Why risk it when it's so easy to sign up?


  1. Ignoring the spoilers for now, I’m disinclined to believe that ‘rapid progress’ and Stranger Things can genuinely be associated with each other. In the first series at least, Dustin finding a creature and feeding it a Mars Bar would’ve been sufficient material to fill at least four episodes. Afghanistan deserve a better analogy.

  2. I haven’t seen Stranger Things so I’ve scrolled through most of the post only read the headline and the last few paragraphs, but I feel obliged to comment on any post/article that references the World Cricket League.

    I’m slightly surprised to learn that CricketEurope (the premier site for WCL updates, back in the day) is still going, but completely unsurprised that it doesn’t appear to have had a redesign in the last decade.

    Similarly unwilling to acknowledge the passage of time, Marcus Trescothick (anagram: ‘such a cricket storm’) has signed on for another year.

    1. Trescothick itself is an anagram of Cricket Shot, which is remarkable (I just remarked, so I am right). Name-anagrams are very strongly linked to a person and their habits.

      Oh, I’ve just noticed that Trescothick also anagrams to Crochets Kit, and if that weren’t enough, to Cock Her Tits. Maybe this link between the name-anagram and the person’s activities is less sure than I thought, because I don’t think Marcus does crocheting.

  3. There isn’t any caramel in a Milky Way. That’s a Mars Bar. Although, like baseball, our American cousins do things differently over there. Two nations divided by a common language has never been so apt. And I’ve still not forgiven them for the Marathon/ Snickers debacle.

    1. If you’ve never tried a Hershey’s bar, JB, your disdain for transatlantic confectionery is only just beginning..

  4. Contrary to what JB claims above, there is caramel in a Milky Way – in the US (which is what everyone else calls a Mars Bar).

    So is KC is really sodding yank, pretending for the last ten years to be someone from oop north? I feel misled

    1. We don’t really eat sweet food so we were just going off what it said on Wikipedia. We had no idea there was a schism.

  5. Jonathan Trott’s career as a professional cricketer is over, as is Paul Collingwood’s.

    This is probably a good thing for over rates in division 1 of the Championship next year, as the amount of time spent marking the crease will be substantially reduced. In every other way, it’s a terrible day for cricket.

    1. Imagine the outpouring of grief once Tres finally calls it a day. The BBC have got reems of footage ready for just that event. It’ll be a public holiday, at least in the westcountry. Flags at half mast. Offices, playgrounds, shopping centres etc will fall silent. Everyone will remember where they were when they heard the news.

      1. When the earth has been reduced to a radioactive wasteland and 6ft tall cockroaches rule the earth, Marcus Trescothick will still be marking his guard at middle & leg and asking for the sightscreen to be adjusted

  6. Feels odd to be able to comment on an article when the other comments are almost a year old…

    That said, jeez that was close. England lost a game they should probably have won, the NZ-WI game is shaping up nicely too. Has the World Cup finally come alive more than 3 weeks after it started?

Comments are closed.