If the recently concluded Asia Cup was anything to go by, then World Cricket looks deemed to embrace the entry of a new superstar.
Improving with each passing day and taking giant strides in their game is the inspiring contingent from Afghanistan which has, by far, forged one of the most popular cricketing tales of the 21st century. And given the nation’s sad tryst with destiny, this cricketing story is made all the more special.
Just after the world applauded them for a series victory against Ireland, their performance in Asia Cup 2018 restated the fact that they have quite truly announced themselves in world cricket. From pipping the likes of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in the league phase to giving a tough time to India in the Super Four stage, Afghanistan showed all the glimpses of a quality side in the sub-continental tournament this year.
Fueled by an admirable penchant to compete on the cricketing field, a few of the Afghanistan cricketers have already achieved the status of sporting heroes back home. Be it for Mohammad Nabi, who started playing cricket in the refugee camps in Pakistan, or Rashid Khan, who was never coached until playing professional cricket, each player has a touching story to narrate.
So, what exactly sets them apart from the other new comers in the game? Recollect the dance moves of Mohammad Shahzad behind the stumps post a stumping or the wild celebrations of Dawlat Zadran after sending a stump for a cartwheel, and you wouldn’t be guessing wrong. And it is this unflinching passion for the game that has helped this team gain a fan-base all across the globe.
Today, Afghanistan is not only cheered by the native fans but also backed by cricket followers from countries like India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka among others. The fans sport the jerseys of their favourite players, relentlessly adorn the stands with fluttering national flags and turn out in numbers to support their team in any contest.
This interest in the game is fast translating into heartening things in Afghanistan. Kids have started playing cricket on the streets, adults have began participating in the game as part of their celebratory processes, and more importantly, the country’s cricketing board has been providing sound infrastructure to groom the players.
Looking ahead, with the latest Afghanistan Premier League already turning heads, things only promise to get brighter for this war-torn country.
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