Cricket is not just a game. It is an emotion. An emotion that connects people all around the globe in unity, promoting peace. It was hard to understand how just a game can change the country and its image until the refugee has ridden Afghanistan made it to the highest level of cricket starting literally from the streets. The passion and love for the game of cricket were visible in the Afghan squad the moment they started playing cricket a decade ago.
Author:- Ashwin Jangam (Cricket Analyst, host, poet, entertainer)
Insta I'd:- cricket_creativity
Unfortunately, whatever happened in Afghanistan in the last 3 months was beyond imagination. Whether it was politically correct or wrong, it did affect the locals of the country traumatizing them and making them suffer and writhe in pain. In the country struck with grief again after 2 decades, cricket was the only reason which could bring back smiles on the faces of Afghans. Although it did not or may not remove their pain, it may help the locals cherish at least some amount of their time.
This is exactly why, after lot of controversy on their participation, when Afghanistan's national anthem was played in their first match in the T20 world cup, tears rolled down a few of the Afghan players' and spectators' eyes. On one side, their nation was no longer a democratic nation and the players and their countrymen suffered from pain, on the other side the team had a tough task to win the game and bring joy on their faces. And boy, they did it in style.
If dominance has some meaning, truly it would be for the match between Afghanistan and Scotland. Winning the toss, skipper Nabi chose to bat first. And the decision was proved right by their openers. The 23-year-old hard-hitter Hazratullah Zazai and the experienced Mohammad Shahzad took on the bowlers in the power play scoring 56 runs in the first 6 overs. Another youngster, Rahmanullah Gurbaz continued the onslaught from the point where Shahzad left. After the wicket of Zazai, Najibullah Zadran took on the Scottish attack in style. All these batsmen and skipper Nabi hit long sixes demoralizing the Scottish bowlers. Resultant of which the Afghan tigers posted a mammoth total of 191 runs.
Scotland was put under heavy pressure right in the first game of Super 12. To chase the target with a required run rate of above 9.5 was a challenge for them. And the Scottish batsmen had no answers to the spin twins of their opposition. Known for their supreme quality bowling, Mujeeb ur Rahman and Rashid Khan dismantled the Scottish batsman, with the former claiming a five-wicket haul and the latter scalping 4 wickets. Coetzer and his men had no answer to Afghan bowlers' googlies. Barring Munsey, skipper and Greaves, none of the batsmen could score in double digits. 5 batters were out for a duck, with 3 of them out for a golden duck. Afghanistan won this match by a huge margin of 130 runs with 58 balls to spare.
That was some kind of dominance in any matches you will see in a world cup. With low scoring matches happening in the tournament with team totals of less than 130 in a few matches, winning with a margin of 130 runs is an achievement to remember. One has to feel for Scotland, who carved their way to the Super 12's with extremely hard work but were put under immense pressure by Afghanistan right in the first match. But that's just how cruel the game is. But both the teams have a long way to go in the tournament. It is not the end of the journey for Scotland, neither it is an automatic qualification for Afghanistan.
While Scotts might be disappointed, the people of Afghanistan definitely might be smiling with their hearts, a sight which the entire world would be happy to see. Knowing what they and their cricket team have been through, the win must have given their countrymen a chance to rejoice, and a chance to feel proud about themselves. Looking at the moment, Nabi and his boys have gained immense confidence and would want to proceed ahead with the tournament with the result they and their countrymen deserve. Whether it happens or not, only time will tell. But if cricket is going to play such an important role in the happiness of someone's life, one can only hope that Afghanistan reaches the highest level in this tournament.