Afghanistan - Cricket and beyond
In his book The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini brought Kabul to life as the Afghans knew it before “religion” got the better of it. As he wrote, the land is just not about religion gone all wrong and streets painted in blood; Afghanistan is about those bald mountains, those pomegranate branches, the lamb kababs, the Afghani Kahwa and definitely the snow.
Cricket befits a similar example here. Even for the most ardent fans, the first thing that comes to our mind when someone mentions Afghanistan is bombs and blood, the splinters and the blister. I don’t deny this stereotype; it’s only human to be roped into such thinking from an outside perspective.
But if we leave all our typical, myopic beliefs aside and focus entirely on cricket, then we have to agree that the game has brought to life the undying and admirable sportsmanship of the Afghans.
More than just a win
The reason their victory against the Scots is so emotional is because for an average Afghan cricket fan, it’s not just cricketing pride which is at stake here. Afghanistan will be a ‘minnow’ no matter what the worldwide contention be. And it feels really nice to see your country defy all that propaganda and come out on top.
This victory has provided one of those rare moments when a sport transcends all boundaries and brings a larger and much stronger perspective into picture. It gives the common man of the nation something to boast about. Something he can be proud of. Afghans settled globally can hold their head high in front of those who degrade their nation.
No matter which position Afghanistan ends up in this World Cup, I am certain that decades from now, on a fine summer evening, people like Mohammad Nabi, Samiullah Shenwari and Shapoor Zadran will be sitting in their backyards regaling their grandkids about how Afghanistan won its first World Cup match and what that victory meant to an entire nation.
Defying the odds to shine at the World Cup
Afghanistan cricket is a tale of undeterred perseverance and faith. It’s a tale of young guys waking up to the sound of bombs and still going out in the streets and playing the gentleman’s game. It is about the joy of smashing the ball as it snows in the background. It is an ongoing saga of keeping firm belief in your abilities and shining on the world stage.
The cricketing infrastructure is next to nothing back home, but the players have still shown remarkable technique and composure. Let us not forget how difficult it must be when you are thrown to fight on the biggest stage of them all amongst the big boys of the sport.
They came so close to beating Zimbabwe. They had the Lankans by the scruff of the neck but owing to their inexperience, let the game slip away.
There is much to take heart from that defeat and much to celebrate with this victory. One could mention many numbers and quotes to commemorate Afghanistan’s performance so far, but let’s not destroy the romance of their achievement by doing that. As the Afghan captain said, the celebrations must have begun back home. Let us keep it that way. Let the fans enjoy this deeply emotional moment under the cricketing sun.
I hope Afghanistan keeps overcoming the odds regularly, and that we see a new resurgent face of the Afghans. I look forward to seeing more Afghani action on the cricket grounds. I hope cricket goes a long way in reshaping Afghanistan pride globally.
Hearty congratulations to each and every cricket-crazy Afghan fan!