For a bunch of players pretty much without a country identity, the T20 World Cup has been a welcome distraction for the Afghanistan team. But a glimpse of the turmoil skipper Mohammad Nabi and his men are going through was on view as they sang Surud-e Milli Milli Surud, the country’s national anthem at the Sharjah stadium on Monday night.
Afghanistan were set to play Scotland and Nabi openly wept on hearing his country’s anthem. The Taliban‘s bloody takeover of his country is still fresh in memory. They say, sport is a great healer, and the lop-sided 130-run win over the European nation was a balm to massage breaking hearts.
Even as the batsmen lit up the sky with their 190-run effort, the form of spin duo Mujeeb Ur Rahman (5/20) and Rashid Khan (4/9) gave aficionados of the game a thrill. For the Afghan people though it was much more.
Amina Azizi, a journalist and social activist, spoke for her countrymen when she told TOI from Jalalabad: “Monday’s match brought a lot of joy for us Afghans after a long time. When the Afghan players came out and sang the national anthem with our giant flag fluttering in the background, we as a nation were emotional.”
Amina added, “We wept along with our captain Nabi as the anthem ended. The picture of Nabi wiping his tears is being widely shared on social media and everyone is sharing their feelings with him. As Afghans we want our players to continue to win and make us proud.”
For 20-year-old Mujeeb’s family in the eastern Afghan province of Khost, the team’s show and his game-changing performance were some relief in the face of a tragedy which has befallen the family. Mujeeb’s uncle passed away last week and the family is still in mourning.
Former top-order batsman Noor Ali Zadran, who is Mujeeb’s uncle, said that in the testing times the family has had to endure, the cricketing achievement was a bright spark in their otherwise dull life.
“Cricket brings great joy to the people of Afghanistan. It’s the love and support of the fans that we are here at this stage. As fans of the team, we believe our team will go the distance in the competition. First match of the tournament and getting five wickets and man of the match is a big achievement for Mujeeb,” said the 33-year-old.
On how Mujeeb took the news of the death in the family, Zadran said, “He was sad and broken but he’s a strong boy. That said, he will never allow it to affect his performance on the field as he will always give his best for the country.”
Elsewhere in Kabul, Zia Khan said, “This win means a lot for the people of Afghanistan. We hope they continue to bring joy to the country.”