While South Africa have been busy bringing India brutally and unceremoniously back down to earth, and New Zealand engaged in dismantling Bangladesh so clinically you almost expected them to be wearing lab coats over their black pajamas, the World T20 Qualifiers have been happening in the U.A.E. I’ve been carefully refraining from commenting on this, despite having paid minute attention to what’s been going on, because I desperately didn’t want to jinx the side I really, really, want to come out on top at the end of it all.
They’ve just beaten Scotland in the second of their two matches, which means they now sit at the top of the points table in Group A with a results tally of 2 matches played and 2 won (since they beat Ireland yesterday in a nailbiter of a match that I would have paid obscene sums of money to have been able to watch live in the stadium), 4 points and a net run rate of +0.675. Not at all bad for a team from a country that’s been ripped viciously apart by civil war and violent extremism, and whose inhabitants have lived as refugees for longer than most of then can remember. Yeah, I’m talking about Afghanistan. And you’d better believe that right now, that team of ragtags who started out several levels beneath the lowest rung of the ladder that is the global cricketing hierarchy are now riding the wave of their own personal fairytale.
I am beyond overjoyed. I’m fucking ecstatic.
Benji Moorehead wrote a lovely piece about the team for the Wisden cricketer a while ago, and he’s said it better than I could, so I’m just going to quote him, because it can’t be said enough or with too much emphasis:
Should Afghanistan qualify – and they are not favourites – their tale won’t suddenly become extraordinary. It is already beyond that.
Too damn right. And should they make it, as it looks like they will, I fervently hope that the sheer scale of their achievement isn’t drowned out by the bells and whistles and inane noise that will definitely surround the World T20. They deserve to be recognized, and at this point no plaudits seem too extravagant. Their story doesn’t need embellishing, or romanticizing. It’s more than good enough on its own.
Team Afghanistan, all the freaking way. Hell, I may make T-shirts.