The Cricket World Cup is bringing a unique opportunity for happiness to Afghans worldwide | Shadi Khan Saif
“Congratulations, Mubarak!” My friend from London, who I hadn’t heard from in a long time, texted me early on Tuesday morning. What could this celebration be for, either personally or professionally?
As I lay in bed, still half asleep, I could hear one of my housemates excitedly laughing and talking on the phone. I wondered what was happening.
After taking a quick shower, I was on my way to the office when I found out about Afghanistan’s impressive win over Pakistan in cricket, which was all over my social media feeds.
I couldn’t believe it! I was excited to catch up on all the key moments, numbers, and of course, the drama and gossip after the match. However, I was still curious about the message from London, so I responded and inquired about its contents. “It was about our victory in the cricket match,” he responded right away. “We were so thrilled that we even forgot to mention the reason.”
The situation was improving even more! As I leisurely made my way towards the station, checking my phone and sending messages with a smile, my usual morning train ride became much more enjoyable – everything around me seemed so beautiful!
My coworker from Australia sent me a text saying that they thought of me when they heard about Afghanistan’s success in cricket. They also wished me well and hoped that I was able to celebrate their wins.
“Wow, Shadi, Afghanistan was victorious!” exclaimed another friend from Melbourne.
“Congratulations, congratulations,” messaged the roommate who had apparently watched the entire game late into the night before going straight to his job at the factory.
Throughout the day, as I watched the impressive performance of Afghanistan against Pakistan in India, I gained a different type of modest assurance. While it was only a victory in the group stage of the Cricket World Cup and did not guarantee advancement towards winning the trophy, it held special significance as Afghanistan’s first ever ODI win over Pakistan. This came after a surprising upset against the reigning champions, England, making it a meaningful event for Afghan fans worldwide.
The incredible achievements of the team have not only brought hope to the struggling nation, but also to millions of Afghans living abroad, including in Australia. In Melbourne’s Dandenong Park, hundreds of people joined in the traditional Attan dance to celebrate the team’s success. Similar scenes of joy and celebration were seen in Kabul and other cities in Afghanistan.
Despite facing international isolation, Afghanistan’s cricket team has once again demonstrated its significance as the sole means for Afghans to stay connected with the rest of the world. On the global stage, the cricketers continue to proudly display the tricolor flag, now replaced by the white Taliban flag, and perform the anthem of the Republic era. This serves as a source of happiness for millions who are suffering from a humanitarian crisis due to the strict regime and global sanctions and isolation.
Rashid Khan, a prominent bowler from Afghanistan, has been actively advocating for the victims of a recent earthquake in the western province of Herat. The natural disaster resulted in the death and displacement of many people. In the previous match, Ibrahim Zadran was named the man of the match and he dedicated his award to the Afghan refugees who were recently deported from Pakistan.
Before facing top competitors on the global stage, these cricketers are experiencing a range of emotions. These are a few instances of the emotional challenges they may encounter.
Additionally, there is an Australian link to this narrative.
Rashid is scheduled to participate in the upcoming Big Bash League later this year. However, he expressed disappointment over Cricket Australia’s choice to cancel a planned three-match series against Afghanistan in the United Arab Emirates. This was due to the Taliban’s ban on girls receiving higher education in Afghanistan.
Rashid tweeted to the Cricket Australia, BBL, and ACB officials, stating that cricket is the only hope for the country and should not involve politics.
As my train traveled through Richmond station, near the impressive MCG, I pondered why Australia couldn’t alter the schedule of the series and use the chance to advocate for Afghan women and girls, instead of completely abandoning this opportunity?