THE Afghanistan cricket team on Monday fired a warning to cricketing nations around the world by scoring a thumping 91-run win over Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup and indicating that they will not be easy prey in next year’s World Cup to be played in England. The Afghans, now known for their fearless brand of cricket, outplayed the Lankans in all departments to register a handsome win at Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Stadium. Batting first, they piled up a decent 249 and then dismissed the more experienced Sri Lanka for a paltry 124. There was a clinical excellence about Afghanistan’s win that underlined their rapid progress in international cricket; it was a continuation of their impressive run in 2018 which has seen them beating Zimbabwe and Ireland apart from winning the qualifiers to book a berth in the 2019 event. Cricket in this war-torn country has indeed emerged as a refreshing new dimension and a unifying force. Many of their cricketing stars — Mohammad Nabi, Asghar Stanikzai, Shahpoor Zadran — learned their cricket in Pakistan. Millions of Afghans fleeing war have sought refuge for nearly 40 years in camps outside Peshawar where they have been exposed to the cricketing fever that subsequently gripped their own land. And their talent and hard work has paid off. Afghanistan, that started playing the game as late as 1995, gained one-day international status in 2009 and has also been part of four Twenty20 World Cups.
The year 2017 was significant for Afghanistan cricket when full-member status of the ICC was achieved and the country became the 12th Test team, playing its debut Test against India in June this year. In recent months, the Afghans have beaten experienced cricket nations such as the West Indies and Sri Lanka, besides inflicting a T20 series sweep over Bangladesh, helped by teen sensation Rashid Khan. Both cricket giants, Pakistan and India, are also wary of the Afghans in the ongoing Asia Cup which is set for an exciting finish.
Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2018