Afghanistan - a journey that has defied all odds
Talk of a fairy tale rise in the world of sports and a number of incidents might just cross your mind. Talk of cricket, and nothing better than the rise of Afghanistan to the international circuit, through sheer passion, zeal, and determination.
Afghanistan has just lost their debut Test against the mighty Indian team by an innings and 262 runs at Bengaluru. Outplayed in all departments of the game, they crumbled to a defeat inside two days. India was on top of the game against the minnows, but the latter has already shown the world where they belong. If everything goes well with their administrative and performance processes, they can be a force to reckon with, probably a decade from now.
When these bunch of 11 players stepped on to the field on 13th June, they knew they were making history. They were to inspire a generation to take up the sport in a nation that is often under the clouds of war or anti-social circumstances. So much so that the militant outfit Taliban had strongly condemned the sport and even bombed the matches at regular intervals. A number of factors plagued them right from the very start. Lack of infrastructure, practice facilities, internal conflicts in the nation and societal shortcomings. Add to that, the absence of a father-figure or a guide, who could lead them to the right path. The financial troubles persisted throughout as well. If you are not an atheist, you would surely believe in something that could be called as “God’s Plan.”
In spite of having no major legacy that the Asian teams like India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh enjoy, Afghanistan attained an ODI status in the year 2009. They played their first T20 World Cup in 2010 and were also a part of the most recent one in 2016. They failed to make it to the 2014 ICC World T20 Super 10s, after a poor show in the qualifiers. Years after years of persistence have brought them where they are today, and in the meantime surviving on an extremely thin quota of proper cricketing aid.
When the national team qualified for the 50-over World Cup in 2015 in Australia and New Zealand, there were celebrations all over, much similar to the ones we would observe when a country wins the world title. This simply shows what it meant to the country, its supporters and above all, the players themselves.
Afghanistan has already started to produce role models - Mohammad Nabi, a former limited-overs captain, current poster boy and World No. 1 T20 bowler Rashid Khan and wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Shahzad to name a few. It is safe to believe now that they have gone past the first few hurdles with a great amount of self-belief. Their expansion and development is a great news for the cricketing fraternity. The sport that started in refugee camps has put them on the world map.
It is said that sport brings out the unity in diversity, and if this dream of theirs run can’t justify it, we not know what would. Sport can just be a wonderful emotion, isn’t it?