By KRITI SHARMA
NEW DELHI, 11 Oct: The ongoing one-day World Cup highlights a remarkable journey for Afghan cricketers, who have endured tough circumstances to make their mark in international sport.
Despite finding themselves out of depth in the initial outings of this World Cup, Afghanistan cricket has come a long way since taking baby-steps just a decade ago.
The Afghans, who on Wednesday took on hosts and fancied India in the Capital’s Ferozeshah Kotla Stadium, have a unique sporting bond with India. In 2018, Afghanistan marked their historic Test debut against cricket giants India in Bengaluru. It was a momentous occasion that touched the hearts of cricket enthusiasts worldwide. Since then, the two teams have not crossed paths on the Test stage but have come face to face in limited-overs tournaments under the purview of both the International Cricket Council and the Asian Cricket Council.
Over the past decade, Afghanistan’s cricket landscape has witnessed a transformative evolution. The nation has transitioned from a cricketing newcomer to a force to be acknowledged in mainstream tournaments.
Yet, as expected, Afghanistan’s cricketing journey has faced enormous challenges. The wartorn nation, which has grappled with politicalinstability and unprofessional sports administration, faces an uncertain future. Political and administrative hiccups have the capacity of disrupting the progress of Afghanistan cricket.
India’s cricket board has contributed its bit to development of the game’s infrastructure in Afghanistan, playing a significant role in nurturing the sport in the country. This support has contributed to the development of facilities, coaching and the pathways for development of the cricketers. Cricket has emerged as a source of hope and unity in Afghanistan. The Indian government has also been of assistance by donating toward the constructing the Kandahar International Cricket Stadium. In its role of supporting Afghanistan cricket, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has been generous by granting them access to training facilities in Greater Noida, Lucknow and the Rajiv Gandhi International stadium in Dehradun. The BCCI is also committed to assisting the junior Afghan teams to train in India, besides improving coaching and umpiring techniques.
Two of Afghanistan’s most renowned cricketing stars, Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi, have emerged as global icons in the sport. Their exceptional skills and performances have earned them a place in the hearts of cricket fans worldwide, and lucrative contracts in the 20-overs Indian Premier League (IPL).
In the ongoing ICC World Cup 2023, Afghanistan tottered at the start, by suffering reversals against Bangladesh and India. Hosts India, who launched this home World Cup with an impressive win over five- time champions Australia, rode on an impressive century from skipper Rohit Sharma to overcome Afghanistan’s challenge. The Afghans, however, have the ability to match the best lineups in limited-overs internationals. They could script some memorable performances before the World Cup concludes on November 19.