Are we watching peak Afghanistan?

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2 minute read

Here’s an ostensibly exciting but actually very depressing thought: are we currently watching the greatest Afghanistan cricket team?

If you enjoy hearing Alan Wilkins saying “goodness me, that’s gone a long way” then watch the highlights of Afghanistan’s innings against Scotland. There are some fairly amazing shots in there.

It’s hard to pick a favourite, but here are some contenders:

  • Mohammad Shahzad’s scythe for six where he starts his backlift only when the ball arrives (9s)
  • Rahmanullah Gurbaz’s helicopter shot (2m12s)
  • The same batsman’s back foot, long-on pummel after stepping in front of his stumps (2m32s)
  • Only a four, but we’ve a soft spot for Mohammad Nabi’s terrifying straight drill, if only because it’s Nabi. Love Nabi (3m21s)
  • Najibullah Zadran’s wristy cow corner heave which appears to leave the stadium (3m28s)

If we had to pick, we’d be tempted to go with Najibullah’s flat-footed effort at 2m52s, where he reaches for and then rises into a ball well outside off stump and almost jumps it for six.

And that was just the batting. Their bowling was pretty tidy too.

Afghanistan have got Pakistan on Friday and Namibia on Sunday, followed by India, New Zealand and Australia. They’re in with some sort of a chance of making the semi-finals.

But is this it? Is this the climax of the story?

Throughout their cricket history, Afghanistan’s defining feature has been their almost supernatural ability to almost instantly get up to standard whenever they’ve taken a step up.

This quality is best exemplified by Mohammad Nabi who was playing for them when they were at the same level as Jersey and is still playing for them now.

This team is not borne of a long and storied history in the game. They’re not products of some flawless domestic structure. Somehow they just crack on and get better and better.

But there have to be limits, don’t there? Not every barrier is insurmountable. Circumstances that were never really that good in the first place have recently deteriorated markedly.

“The only happiness in Afghanistan is cricket,” said Mohammad Nabi after his side absolutely pulverised Scotland.

If they’re to continue their trend for awe-inspiring relentless progress, Afghanistan are really up against it.


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  1. I was having similar thoughts earlier this week, and am even slightly conflicted as to whether I want Afghanistan to do well in the competition or not, given what that might be used for by the group of people currently running the country.

    This group of players (and those who played alongside Nabi during the team’s ascent from World Cricket League Division 5 to Test status) deserve success, but in International sport, the team ‘represent’ the country they are from in more ways than one; I am as big a Nabi or Rashid Khan fan as the next person, but it’s hard to cheer on a representation of the current Afghan regime.

    1. I think Afghanistan should have been removed from the tournament when the Taliban abolished the women’s team. Nothing against the players here, but I think it’s naive to think that you can separate sport and politics (if that’s a strong enough word to describe the Afghan regime).

      In other sports/politics news, it seems nominative determinism has struck Quinton de Kock.

      1. Yes. “I’d sooner not play” is quite the position to take on an anti-racism gesture.

      2. I agree about separating sport and politics. They play under a national flag, the national anthems are played before games; it’s an intrinsically political (small p at least) event

      3. Something something violent Marxism something something.

        No, I don’t believe it either. I do believe the de Kock thing: refusing to make any anti-racism gesture while his teammates (including white teammates) showed a variety suggested he was a baddun. This just proves it.

      4. If de Kock believes that kneeling or not should be a personal choice then he has made that choice.

        Now we are free to judge him for what he has really gone out of his way to choose.

  2. I hope Afghanistan defeat India (& India defeat New Zealand) thus allowing Afghanistan to qualify behind Pakistan on NRR. I say this as an Indian fan. IPL is more than enough T20 cricket for Indian fans.

    Afghan fans might never get another chance as good as this to see their team reach the semi finals of an ICC tournament !!

  3. Pakistan are going to win the cup. Unless they don’t. And, as we all know, the only team capable of beating Pakistan are Pakistan themselves.

    1. Really miss Boom-Boom. One would think he could get a game by knocking a few more years off his age again. Shaheen might be playing but he’s no replacement for Shahid.

  4. They do rather put you in mind of Zimbabwe in the ’90s in the Flower-Streak-Olonga era. I suppose the earlier Houghton-Traicos-Brandes generation are the guys who made their breakthrough but for about a decade, Zim were a legitimately competitive outfit despite everything being against them off the field. I fear Afghanistan could go the same way, continuing to field sides at associate level but remembered as a tragic what might have been.

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