By Hamayun Khan
Afghanistan’s journey in international cricket has been nothing short of remarkable. From humble beginnings in the muddy refugee camps of Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and the rugged cricket grounds in Kabul to becoming a full member of the International Cricket Council (ICC), their rise in the cricketing world is a testament to unwavering determination. Afghanistan’s national cricket team has given its war-suffered people something to rally behind and be proud of.
On October 23, Afghanistan secured a historical victory over Pakistan in Cricket World Cup 2023, following their win against the defending champion of the 2019 One Day International World Cup, England – marking a moment that transcended the boundaries of sport and nation. The streets of Afghanistan came alive with ecstatic residents as the nation torn by decades of conflicts came together to celebrate this long-awaited victory against its cricketing arch-rival. The world watched in awe after Afghanistan marked this historical win against Pakistan for the first time in One Day International format. The cricket match against Pakistan, therefore, was more than simply a game; it represented optimism and resiliency for a country that has endured numerous trials.
“This win tastes nice. “The way we chased was very professional,” Hashmatullah Shahidi, the Afghan cricket team skipper remarked during the post-match awards ceremony against Pakistan. “So happy. Big win. Having to wait so long for this game, it was incredibly special. Whoa!” Following the win, the opening batter and the team’s key player, Rahmanullah Gurbaz told the press. “We have been hoping for this kind of game for the past seven years. They, Pakistan, consistently defeated us whenever we met them. We defeated them for the first time,” Gurbaz added.
The match against Pakistan was a rollercoaster of emotions for Afghans both within Afghanistan and abroad. Nail-biting moments and breathtaking performances thus left the cricketing fraternity astonished. In such a high-pressure game, the young Afghanistan’s players displayed grit and skill, and the world watched in anticipation. The way the Afghan team’s top order batters crippled Pakistan’s world class fast bowlers turned the match into a convincing one-sided contest that had Afghan fans on the edge of their seats.
It was not just the match; however, it was what happened afterward that truly captured the world’s attention. Afghans across the globe erupted in joy and full of emotions. As usual, streets in Afghanistan were flooded with people celebrating, singing songs, and dancing. It was a spontaneous outpouring of national pride and unity that few could have predicted.
In provinces such as Nangarhar, Kabul, Kandahar, Khost and several other cities big and small, the people of Afghanistan celebrated the victory against Pakistan like never before. Stories of jubilation, hugs, and tears of joy were shared by Afghans who had longed for such a moment. It was more than a cricket win; it was a victory for a nation yearning for something to cheer about for over two years of dismay since the unprecedented collapse of the republic in August 2021.
Therefore, this win means more than just a few points on the World Cup ranking table. It is a moment that signifies the resilience and strength of the Afghan cricket team. In a country marred by conflict, cricket has emerged as a beacon of hope and a sole source of joy. Like many other victories, the victory against Pakistan has united Afghans from diverse backgrounds, transcending ethnic, linguistic, and communal divisions across Afghanistan and beyond. Given the public’s unfavorable perception of Pakistan in Afghanistan, which stems primarily from the two countries’ protracted political strife, Afghans widely celebrated the win over the Pakistani team.
For Afghans cricket is not just a sport; as I mentioned, it has become a symbol of Afghan pride now. It is a reminder that this war-torn nation has the potential to rise above adversity, no matter what. The wins against England and then Pakistan have placed Afghanistan on the global cricketing map, earning the respect and admiration of the cricketing world.
The heroes of this historic win, therefore, deserve recognition. From the captain’s leadership to the spin bowlers’ precision and the batters’ determination, every player equally contributed to the victory. They have become beacons of inspiration for a nation looking for heroes to admire and emulate.
As Afghanistan revels in the glory of this win, the nation also faces challenges in its cricketing journey. Lack of proper infrastructure, domestic cricket development, and consistent competitions are areas that need attention. However, this victory serves as a stepping-stone, opening doors for greater opportunities and investments in the sport in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan’s triumph over Pakistan in the Cricket World Cup 2023 is a moment that will be etched in the cricket history and the memory of the Afghan nation forever. It is a testament to the power of sports to unite people, inspire hope, and transcend borders. In a country that has seen its fair share of hardships, this win is a shining beacon of optimism and a hint of what a united Afghanistan can achieve.
The world may have witnessed a cricket match, but for Afghans, it was a moment of glory, pride, and unity. Afghanistan once again proves that it is more than just a country; it is a resilient and hopeful nation on the rise.