Sixteen years ago, Edrees Kharotai was playing cricket in the streets of Naranghar, 200 miles from Kabul in Afganistan. His life was then turned upside down by the murder of his father. Edrees was 13 years of age.

It would be the last time he played cricket in his homeland. Just months later he was smuggled out of the country, on a torturous two-year journey which took him to Italy and eventually to Ireland.

Today he is living in Derry and has returned to his first love, playing cricket for Ardmore and his match-winning contribution of 42 from just 21 balls against Brigade this month has propelled the Bleachgreen side into serious contenders for the NW Premiership.

“I always loved cricket, it’s the one sport which they played in Asia although back then there were no facilities and Afghanistan didn’t have a cricket team so we just played in the streets.

That came to a halt in 2007 following the death of his father and, encouraged by his mother, he left her and his seven sisters “for a better life in Europe”. He was 13 years old.

“Along with other people we were smuggled out of Afghanistan and for nearly two years we were on the road. First, we went to Iran, then to Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Austria before arriving in Italy, It was a very long journey and although the smugglers had accommodation in many places if not we would live on the streets.

“I stayed for a couple of years in Italy in social care and got residency, working as a barman. When I was 18-19, I came to Dublin for a holiday and met a girl from Derry.

“Although I went back to Italy, we continued talking and I then came back to Ireland for good, first in Dublin, then to Monaghan and Letterkenny and now to Derry.”

Although Edrees was now safe and enjoying life in Northern Ireland, the Taliban were now in control in Afghanistan and one of his sisters was abducted in 2021.

He no longer talks about that episode because it “brings back bad memories” but he insists his sister is now ok and back living with her family.

His first love remains cricket but it took him some years before he even knew that cricket was played in the North West.

“A guy I worked with was a football coach in Ardmore and he told me they had a cricket team as well. I asked for their contact details and he told me ‘Paul (Brolly) will meet you’. He is the best man I have ever met, they welcome me so good,” recalls Edrees.

“For two years I just played intermediate cricket but they kept telling me I was too good for intermediate cricket and should be playing at a senior level. However, I am now 29 and I thought the time had passed and I wasn’t really into it.

“But, at the start of this season our captain Rachit (Gaur), from India, said I want you to play for seniors this year, you are definitely playing,. I said ‘I don’t think I am good enough’, he said ‘I don’t see who’s more good enough than you, I want you to play’.

“So I started training really hard, focused and concentrated on getting better and just worked on it and now we have a chance of winning the league.”

Edrees may be reluctant to talk about the current situation in Afghanistan but when you ask him about his first season on the Ardmore 1st XI, he is unstoppable.

“If we win the league it would be the best we have ever did. We want to finish at the top, that’s what our mission is and I believe we have the capability and the talent, we are complete in every way and if we continue to play positive cricket we can win it,” he enthuses.

It was the game against Brigade which has encouraged such positive thoughts.

“It’s the first time I’ve played Brigade and in the dressing room I saw the wickets falling and the captain told me to pad up. ‘We cannot afford to lose this game if we want to win the league’, he said. I went out and hit four sixes and two fours but wanted to hit another six but I mistimed it and got out but we won the match, no-one expected us to win.”

The captain is a great leader and all the credit goes to him but my role in the team is to turn the impossible into the possible and it happened against Brigade.”

Many would say he did that having escaped the war in his home country as a 13-year-old, so helping Ardmore to win the league should be child’s play for this cricket-mad Afghan.