Just like any other international team, Afghanistan has also cropped up as one of the most celebrated team in world cricket. The players have risen up to the occasion and country’s cricket team was rightly awarded Test status this year. In one of the most talked about debuts, Afghanistan could only manage to withstand Indian onslaught for a mere 2 days. Two sessions was all it took for the Indian bowlers to bowl out the debuting visitors twice. Wouldn’t be untrue to term it as an ‘Easy Defeat’, but Afghanistan still have a lot to gain from. Meanwhile, India’s welcome gesture to pose together with the debutantes reminded the fraternity that the spirit of the game still remains intact and guarded in high regards.
The minnow nation has managed to counter the dreadful living conditions back home and has produced eye-caching performances time and time again. A gentle blend of experience and youth, Afghanistan has emerged to be the most consistent associate nation over the last few years.
Their upset wins against Bangladesh and West Indies and a spirited resilience on display in recent world cups have garnered praise and admiration from across the globe. The kind of bowlers they have generated off the concrete and barren grounds of Afghanistan is phenomenal and with the able support of their government and cricket board, the talents are rightly nurtured and taken care of. From Mohammad Nabi and Asghar Stanikzai to the youngsters in Rashid Khan and Mujeeb ur Rehman every Afghanistan cricketer comes in with an X-factor that stands out amongst the rest.
They say ‘It’s tough to attain success but its rather tougher to maintain it.’ It all started from the 2010 T20 world cup where Afghanistan created history qualifying for the tournament first time ever. Though they could not manage a win on the top-most stage, it left them with bountiful experiences and high-pressure situations to learn from. Post their updation to Associate member of ICC and after successfully qualifying for every World Cup since 2012, Afghanistan amassed ample cricketing knowledge playing against the top teams and legends of the game. Veterans like Mohammad Nabi, Shapoor Zadran and Mohammad Shehzad stepped up for the Afghans and laid down the foundation for their youngsters to take up and excel in the sport.
Rashid Khan and Mujeeb ur Rehman are the shining results of the cricketing culture the Afghanistan Cricket Board has developed amidst the country. Allowing their players to feature in international cricket leagues, providing them with best infrastructure and insuring a mundane training and fitness schedule has what prospered the nation into a well-established one. Help from BCCI has also come in as a blessing. Allowing Afghanistan venues for practice and to host series against other nations, Indian cricket has set an example to the world portraying that ‘Cricket knows no borders’.
“Afghanistan come across as natural cricketers. They seem to have ball sense. Their timing of the bat swing and the delivery strides of the bowler, it all comes naturally to them”
Rashid, Nabi and Mujeeb have been travelling across the globe and are still unmatched and uncracked on talent. Transitioning onto red-ball cricket, the Afghans stepped in keen on making an impact against India on their first ever international Test match at Bengaluru on June 14. Opting to bat first, the host nation drew the first blood as both the openers went on to score hundreds. The experienced and impressive ‘limited over’ bowlers from Afghanistan were toiled hard for runs only to manage a few strike backs towards the end of the first day.
It was however expected that Afghanistan would come out strong with the bat after bundling India to 474. But, onto an innings which never looked settled, onto an innings which never looked patient and onto an innings that lacked intent, Indian bowlers had it easy to restrict visitors to a mere 109 and thus enforce a follow on. The Afghanistan cricket heads sitting in the dressing room were certainly happy to see their team perform on international stage but certainly not on how they fared. The debacle continued and followed similar scripts as Indian bowlers got rid of Afghans for only 103 thereby registering their highest ever test victory margin.
It takes a different approach, it takes a different game altogether. Tests can never be played as ODIs or T20Is and that’s exactly what Afghanistan would look to take from the loss. Utilizing the conditions well and grappling the opponent to pressure with time is something they would look to do in near future. It’s never too late to learn and with a set of talented, humble and hardworking men, it’s never too difficult. World admires the Stanikzai-led squad and its certain that with time and experience Afghanistan are hopefully world cricket’s next big thing. The journey’s being tough but sojourn is yet be dwelled.