Rediff.com  » Cricket » Afghan fans celebrate big win in T20 World Cup opener

Afghan fans celebrate big win in T20 World Cup opener

October 26, 2021 10:35 IST
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Fans of Afghanistan arrive ahead of the ICC Men's T20 World Cup match against Scotland at Sharjah Cricket Stadium in Sharjah on Monday 

IMAGE: Fans of Afghanistan arrive ahead of the ICC Men's T20 World Cup match against Scotland at Sharjah Cricket Stadium in Sharjah on Monday. Photographs: Alex Davidson/Getty Images

Afghanistan supporters donning national colours gathered in Sharjah to cheer on the team, who opened their Twenty20 World Cup campaign with a commanding 130-run win over Scotland on Monday.

 

Afghanistan's top order fired their side to an imposing 190-4 in their opening Super 12 stage match before spin duo Mujeeb Ur Rahman (5-20) and Rashid Khan (4-9) then combined to skittle Scotland for 60 runs in 10.2 overs.

Groups of fans decked out in black, red and green carried the country's flag to show their support for the national side amid uncertainty surrounding their country's status as a full international member after the tournament.

The team's remarkable rise has been cricket's biggest fairytale story in recent times but Afghanistan risk isolation following the country's takeover by the Taliban in August.

A fan of Afghanistan at Sharjah Cricket Stadium  

IMAGE: A fan of Afghanistan at Sharjah Cricket Stadium.

Taliban officials took to social media on Monday to congratulate the Afghan national cricket team for winning a match in the Twenty20 World Cup, but there was a muted response on the streets of Kabul where such wins were celebrated enthusiastically in the past.

While the Taliban frown on many forms of public entertainment, cricket has always been an exception, a game followed closely even during the war whenever the national team was playing.

"Congratulations to the team and wish them more success in the future," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Twitter.

A spokesman for the Taliban's Qatar office also joined in the praise, adding: "We hope for similar and even higher achievements in other fields, especially in the political, economic and scientific fields."

The highest profile message came from Anas Haqqani, the younger brother of Afghanistan's current acting Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani - the head of the Haqqani Network.

"Afghanistan won," the younger Haqqani said.

The Taliban's representative-designate to the United Nations Suhail Shaheen tweeted: "Well done boys!"

However, there was relative silence across Kabul, where such victories were previously met with jubilation in the streets, fireworks and celebratory gunfire. There were only a few, small fireworks seen in the Kabul sky.

A fan of Afghanistan at Sharjah Cricket Stadium  

The streets were mostly empty or silent.

The Taliban's foes also saw the victory as significant for the country. Amrullah Saleh, the ex-vice president who became one of the leaders of the anti-Taliban forces after the fall of Kabul, pointed out on Twitter that the cricket team had sung a national anthem and raised a flag which are not recongnised by the Taliban.

President Ashraf Ghani, who fled the country in August, said the victory had "installed new hopes in the hearts of all that this nation is alive and no one can hold it hostage!"

Despite years of violence and upheaval, Afghanistan has an enthusiastic and widespread following of cricket and residents of Kabul were eagerly anticipating the cricket world cup matches.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) will meet next month to determine the sport's future in Afghanistan under the Taliban, while Cricket Australia has already threatened to scrap next month's one-off Test if women are not allowed to play cricket.

Afghanistan will next take on Pakistan, who beat India by 10 wickets L4N2RK07W at the weekend, in their second group game in Dubai on Friday.

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Source: REUTERS
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