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Reaching for the Stars: The tale of Afghanistan cricket

ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier: Final - Afghanistan v Namibia

The country’s political situation still lies in shambles but when it comes to Afghanistan’s sporting front, all looks to be well. More than well, if one were to avoid understatements. From winning its first international title in football, defeating India in the recently concluded SAFF Cup, almost a month ago, to qualify for the 2015 ICC World Cup for the very first time; Afghanistan’s been creating sporting history with every new step it takes.

For a nation that has borne centuries of angst, and whose future still continues to remain shrouded in uncertainty, this qualification is a huge boost. It is a welcome – and necessary – distraction from the violence and upheavals that otherwise dominate the course of its routine life. A testimony to a different kind of heroicness, this qualification is the result of years’ worth of endurance, of a change long awaited – muted yet unreservedly unrestrained in its optimism and hope.

Dreams are said to be composed of these two facets, taking individuals to unexplored heights far beyond the reach of any restrictions and stipulations. Riding on the bedrock of hope and optimism, these dreams then hold sway, with all negativities dwindling away as if of no consequence. And though, many may term such dreams to be nothing but wishful thoughts and far-fetched fantasies, to those confined by unspeakable shackles and chains, they become the sole source of deliverance.

Of the countless who dream about changing their lives, of getting to see their innermost passions brought to life; a few lucky ones do get to be a part of the transformation of dreams to reality. As each member of the Afghani cricket team is getting to experience and feel, thanks to an invigorated performance that not only saw them excel on an all-round basis on the cricketing front on that particular day against Kenya, but also ensured that their road ahead in the sport was concerned was paved with the strongest of concrete tracts.

Experiencing the fruition of their dreams hasn’t however come any easier to the Afghani cricketers. The fate that brought them closer to the sport in the first place still held them in binds to their country and to the numerous volatilities that continued to pepper their day-to-day lives. As much as a route of escapism the sport offered, threats of unpredictability of continuity abounded. Endangering, not just the cocoon of dreams, but also the painstaking rehabilitation work of visionaries who saw sport – cricket – as a tool to carve a potential name for the nation, quite separate from the infamy that otherwise enveloped it. Their due of success has thus come about in bits and pieces, slow-paced at first, hidden and camouflaged, if not inconsistently; moving on to a faster pace only in the more recent years, thus heralding a newer dawn not just for them, but for the entire nation to wake up to.

The successful chase of the target of 94-runs set by the Kenyans can then be very well interpreted to be a target chase involving the Afghanis’ future. A future in which, each player not only gets to have a say, but is heard as well. As an associate cricketing member of the ICC, this win – and the consequential qualification to the 2015 World Cup – then connotes a major milestone for the future aspirations of the Afghani cricketers and the country, in extension.

When compared to many of the cricket playing nations, Afghanistan’s love for cricket too emerges as a passion absorbed thanks to the influences left by its most immediate cricket playing neighbours – Pakistan and indirectly, India. But where these two nations owe their cricketing roots to their British colonists and have been undoubted recipients of the best infrastructural aids possible to further their credentials in the sport, Afghanistan remains a poor cousin when it comes to these facilities and aids.

Underdogs thus, the Afghanistan cricket team may be still, with their inexperience of playing in the international circuit still showing through. But neither their lack of experience nor the lack of infrastructural assistances can take anything away from their competency and their success. For, the survival, sustenance and perseverance of the nation’s cricketing skills and cricketers have been very much despite these existing limitations and impediments.

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