Sports

Afghanistan: Resilient sensation in game of cricket

Fearless display of cricketing talent by rapidly rising Afghan team gives new life to game

Shadi Khan Saif   | 20.06.2019
Afghanistan: Resilient sensation in game of cricket

KABUL, Afghanistan

In an amazing rare sight of joy, millions of Afghans get glued to the television screens as their national team continues to rise and shine on the global stage at the ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup in England and Wales.

The epic journey of Afghan cricket players from refugee camps in Pakistan to the world stage in only several years has already mesmerized followers of this game, but their consequent success to grab a place among the top ten teams in the world won them even more praise and affection at home and abroad.

Seen as the underdog at the ongoing World Cup, Afghanistan gave tough competitions to the likes of former champions Sri Lanka and Australia, and even managed to beat another titleholder, Pakistan, at a warm-up match.

Charged crowd of mostly young men and boys hoisting the tricolor flag of Afghanistan throng the Shahr-e-Nau (New City) park to watch the games under the old pine trees.

"It is a proud moment for us," Haider Khan, an enthusiastic cricket follower, told Anadolu Agency.

"Just listening to our national anthem played out at the stadium during the World Cup matches brings tears, the tears of joy to my eyes," Khan said.

For the very first time, state broadcaster, Radio Television Afghanistan, has obtained broadcasting rights from the International Cricket Council that means the World Cup matches can now be watched live all over Afghanistan.

This coverage reaches approximately 60% of households or an audience of an estimated 20 million.

Mohammad Ibrahim Momand, a cricket commentator, has been a witness to the amazing transformation of Afghanistan’s cricket team.

"I have seen them [national players] live in tents and play on dusty grounds in Kabul with literally no means," Momand told Anadolu Agency.

Momand said he received emotionally charged feedback from cricket followers in some of the most remote and insecure parts of the country.

"Even days before the national team’s fixtures, I receive hundreds of phone calls and messages on a daily basis. The fans eagerly wait to see or even just listen to live commentaries on radio. And, the interesting thing is that this affection is just growing day by day," he said.

Fairytale to sustainable success

Two years ago, in a landmark development, Afghanistan was declared full member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) as the world body acknowledged rapid growth and potential for the sport in the war-ravaged country, sparking nationwide celebrations.

Currently, many players from Afghanistan are at the center stage of leading commercial cricket leagues in England, Australia and India. Players including Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi and Mujeed Zadran are household names among cricket followers worldwide as they make records with the bat and ball.

Now, faced with world class competitors, Afghan players saw a number of their technical shortcomings exposed in the harsh and unfamiliar English conditions during the World Cup.

Afghanistan lost all five of its matches in the beginning with some resistance against the opponents.

Fareed Hotak, the Afghanistan Cricket Board spokesman, agreed that it is time to catch-up with the rest of the world in terms of training, technique and structural reforms.

"We have noted our shortcomings, and would try to address them in our forthcoming encounters. We are particularly thankful to the President [Ashraf Ghani] for the attention and support," he said.

Ghani went to Manchester earlier this week to boost the morale of the squad.

Momand argues the fairytale of Afghanistan’s emphatic entry and rise at the global arena now badly needs to be complemented with some real structural reforms to sustain and further the success story.

"Afghanistan has been enjoying the limelight and praises mainly for the raw talent and enthusiasm of the players, but that cannot help it sustain for long unless there are structural reforms and continued learning process," the seasoned cricket observer said.

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