The Cricket World Cup is currently bringing joy to Afghans worldwide, a rare occurrence. – Shadi Khan Saif
“My friend in London sent me a text early Tuesday morning saying ‘Congratulations!’ after not speaking to me for a long time. I wondered what accomplishment, personal or professional, could have prompted this celebration.”
I was still in bed, half asleep, when I heard one of my housemates talking excitedly and laughing on the phone. I wondered what was happening.
After taking a brief shower, I was on my way to the office when I found out about Afghanistan’s impressive win in cricket against Pakistan. The news was all over my social media feeds.
I couldn’t believe it! I was excited to catch up on the latest highlights, statistics, and post-match gossip and drama. However, I was still curious about the message from London. I responded and asked for clarification. “It was about our victory in the cricket game,” he quickly replied. “We were so ecstatic that we forgot to mention it earlier.”
Things were only getting better! I ended up missing one train because I was leisurely strolling towards the station, scrolling through my phone and exchanging texts with a smile on my face. My usual morning commute had never been so enjoyable – everything looked absolutely beautiful!
“Hello friend, I recently heard about Afghanistan’s achievements in cricket and it made me think of you. I hope you are doing well and able to celebrate their victories!” A friend from Australia who I work with sent this message.
Another friend from Melbourne exclaimed, “Oh my gosh Shadi, Afghanistan emerged victorious!”
“Mubarak, Mubarak,” texted the housemate who had apparently seen the whole game overnight before heading straight to his factory job.
Throughout the day, I witnessed the impressive performance of the Afghans on the cricket field against Pakistan in India, and it instilled in me a newfound sense of humble assurance. While it may have been seen as just a group stage win in the Cricket World Cup, it was Afghanistan’s first-ever ODI victory over Pakistan and came after their surprising upset against the reigning champions, England. This achievement held significant meaning for Afghans globally.
The incredible success of the team has not only brought hope to the suffering nation, but also to millions in the Afghan community around the world, including those in Australia. In Melbourne’s Dandenong Park, hundreds gathered to participate in the traditional Attan dance to celebrate the victory. The scenes in Kabul and other cities in Afghanistan were filled with happiness and merriment.
Despite being isolated by the international community, the Afghanistan cricket team has once again shown that it remains the sole means for Afghans to maintain connections with the rest of the world. On the global stage, the cricket team proudly represents the tri-colour flag, now replaced by the white Taliban flag, and continues to play the anthem of the Republic era. For millions struggling under a strict regime and facing humanitarian crises, the success of the cricket team serves as a source of happiness in the midst of international sanctions and isolation.
Rashid Khan, a prominent bowler from Afghanistan, has been actively advocating for the victims of a recent earthquake in the western Herat province. The disaster caused the loss of many lives and left thousands of people displaced. In another match, Ibrahim Zadran, who was named the best player, dedicated his award to the Afghan refugees who were recently deported from Pakistan.
These are a few instances of the emotional challenges that these cricketers face before competing against top opponents on the global platform.
Additionally, there is an Australian link to this narrative.
Rashid is expected to join the Big Bash League later this year. However, he expressed disappointment over Cricket Australia’s choice to cancel a scheduled three-game series in the United Arab Emirates against Afghanistan due to the Taliban’s restriction on girls’ education in the country.
Rashid recently tweeted to the Twitter handles of Cricket Australia, BBL, and ACB officials, expressing his belief that cricket is the only thing that can bring hope to the country and urging for politics to be kept separate from it.
While my train traveled through Richmond station close to the impressive MCG, I pondered why Australia couldn’t rearrange the series and use the chance to advocate for the rights of Afghan women and girls, rather than completely abandoning the opportunity.