Though the Afghani men’s cricket team lost to a much superior India in their opening T20 World Cup game, their 24 run loss (the so called ‘amateurs’ put up quite a good show!) only highlights the fact that Afghanistan is slowly but surely rising as a sporting nation.
From the days of Talibani dictatorship, the war ravaged nation has certainly made great progress in the sporting arena, and looks set to improve its standing in World sport.
Afghani athlete Rohullah Nikpah won his second consecutive Bronze medal in the just concluded London Olympics (beating a higher skilled Polish opponent), and Afghani soccer players playing in German soccer leagues shows the rise of sporting talent in the country.
Restricting former T20 champs India to 159 is no mean achievement by any standards, and it was only lack of experience which ensured a late batting collapse for Afghanistan.
The highlight in that T20 game was Mohammad Shahzad’s ‘Helicopter’ shot (a Mahendra Singh Dhoni trademark!) off Zaheer Khan, which left even Dhoni smiling.
The fall of the Taliban (not exactly!) was definitely an important factor for Afghanistan rising in world sport, which ensured they could start playing other sports apart from the traditional ‘Buzkashi’ (made famous by the Rambo movie!) and ‘Kite flying’ (another popular Afghani pastime!).
Even Afghani women have started taking up sport seriously, with the recent example of Tahmina Kohistani, who competed in the 100m sprint in the London Olympics.
Though Kohistani finished dead last, the very fact that an Afghani woman was competing in a major international event like the Olympics was equivalent to a Gold medal win.
Kohistani had to go through a lot of stigma, which included the age old belief of women not being allowed to take part in sport, plus harrassment from men, who believed she should just ‘stay in her house’ and not train for London 2012.
But despite all these obstacles, Kohistani did compete and received a warm applause from the London crowd, which may just be the sign of things to come by.
So, going by the current scenario, Afghanistan definitely looks like a nation rising in world sport, with the Afghani men’s cricket team and Kohistani laying the foundations for a change in the country’s age old ‘hatred’ against sport.
So, it will be no surprise if Afghanistan does manage to upset a major cricketing nation (a la-Ireland!) or win a handful of medals in major international tournaments in the near future.
And giving India a good run for their money in the just concluded T20 match surely looks like a sign of good things to come by for sport in Afghanistan!