It was a compact evening in the cricket stadium, the moist air of Sharjah was already heavily charged with sensational chants but as the Afghan ‘Mili Surud’ began in chorus, the air became denser and heavier. As the frame rolled onto Nabi’s deploring eyes, the surging ocean in Nabi’s eyes was witnessed by the oblivious world. Those complaining eyes reflected the unheeded splash of distress in every Afghan’s heart. They reflected the centuries-old agony surfaced by the unruly abandonment, longing, afflictions, and catastrophes. Although those deploring eyes narrated the brutalities of the powerful nations, the countless collateral, and not-so-collateral damages, the Afghan essential spirit was there to be seen in those tears. There was the hope of a new becoming. A ready nation, standing still in the storm facing the dampness, the humidity, the chants, the bullies, schooling the world a probability no one could imagine. The possibility of winning the cricketing world. The tears elucidated that this World Cup was not just a trophy for the Afghans but a struggle to win the snatched Afghan identity back.
The Afghanistan team can definitely win the T20 World Cup 2021. The question is how did the team, registered in 2001, come this far to challenge the World greats? what does the journey suggest? In the early 90s, cricket became popular amongst Afghan refugees residing in Pakistan and thus the Afghanistan Cricket Board was formed in 1995. Under constant terrorist pressure, sports including the sports of cricket was initially banned in Afghanistan. But the turn of the century saw a change in heart and cricket was allowed to be played in Afghanistan. The Afghan Cricket Board with the help of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) appealed to the International Cricket Council (ICC) to become a member of it. They became an affiliate member of the ICC in 2001. The world witnessed the first proper glimpse of Afghanistan in 2010 when they qualified for ICC T20 World Cup held in West Indies. They played their first T20 World Cup against India. Their inexperience showed on the big stage but they gave a good account of themselves. In 2011 though Afghanistan failed to qualify for the 50 over World Cup, they earned One Day International status for four years and played first ODI against Scotland. Finally, after a while, they qualified for the 2015 World Cup in Australia.
Afghanistan team is currently ranked 8th in the ICC T20 world rankings just behind Sri Lanka and ahead of the likes of West Indies and Bangladesh. Afghanistan currently holds the record of highest ever T20 score in a match. This unforeseen journey from the war arena to the playground, and from being the displaced refugees to a team perched in the World’s top eight tables, is nothing short of a miracle. The reason is simple, cricket for the afflicted Afghans is not just a game but a catharsis, and true happiness. This outlook is what made Afghanistan the cricket giant and can probably make them the champions. Afghanistan skipper Nabi after beating Scotland in the first match said, “But from a cricket point of view, everybody is ready for this World Cup and we prepared well. The fans are really waiting because the only happiness in Afghanistan is cricket. Everyone knows that back home in Afghanistan there’s a lot happening and everything from the last few months.”
This statement explains the importance of cricket for the war-torn nation. It narrates that the country’s history is replete with wars and other violent conflicts, including the most recent five decades of foreign occupation, civil war, and insurgency since 1978. It grumbles that the reality of war has nothing to do with the Afghans. In fact, it was imposed on them by the foreign powers with unjustified narratives.