Posts Tagged Afghanistan

The Future’s So Bright…

Not many people know that this song is not, in fact, a breathless ode to a bright future bursting with possibility and limitless potential, but rather a song about how the 80’s were very likely going to end in nuclear holocaust. That sunglasses-necessitating brightness was going to be the result of a catastrophic atomic detonation destroying all life as we know it (at which point it’s unclear how sunglasses would help all that much, but anyway. 80s rock band lyricists didn’t make their millions off the unshakeable logic of their arguments, after all.)

Despite this, it’s become the go-to anthem for those glorious, inspirational moments when boundless, exhilarating optimism seems not only forgiveable but almost imperative. Moments like the one Afghanistan – and, for the most part, their young wicketkeeper Mohammad Shahzad – created for themselves about half an hour ago at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, in front of what was almost certainly a small but devoted crowd of fans and almost no-one else.  Yes, they’re only Associates. Yes, they were playing Canada – hardly heavyweight opposition, certainly not in the class of Ireland or even the Netherlands. But here’s what they did: chased down a target of 494 – in a four-day match! In the second innings! – to win with less than three overs to spare.

Less than three overs.

It gets better.

The wicketkeeper I mentioned, Mohammad Shahzad? The one who won it for Afghanistan with a final score of 214 not out? He’s EIGHTEEN YEARS OLD. What were you doing when you were eighteen? Unless you were winning international matches for your country with second-innings (second-innings! The mind, it boggles) double-hundred scores while simultaneously acting as a beacon of hope and unimaginable inspiration for your horrifically war-torn and impoverished country, Mohammad Shahzad is more awesome than you by a factor too high to compute.

I’ve already written (as have others, obviously) about how incredible Afghanistan’s journey has been so far, and with how much grace and spirit they’ve handled themselves on the way up, but it deserves to be said again, and again, and again. Everyone should be talking about them. I should have made the time to go and see them in Sharjah (responsibilities be damned!…ok, maybe not. Still, I’m BITTER. What I wouldn’t have given…!) They’ve done something so spectacular that if you stuck it in an overwrought movie montage a la Chariots of Fire it would actually belong there.

Congratulations, gentlemen. I wish I had been there. Your future is really, truly, so bright at this point that it’s practically bloody incandescent. If there’s any justice, someone will find a better song, one that isn’t actually about nihilism and death, to yoink a headline from about what you’ve accomplished. This one suggested itself almost automatically, but I’ll be damned if I use it without stating categorically that I don’t wish or foresee your future being bright for all the wrong reasons, even if you are from Afghanistan and most days what seems to be in store for your country looks anything but hopeful.

Mohammad Shahzad and Mohammad Nabi: I feel priveleged to have seen you play.


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*Shameless Plug Alert!*

Well, not quite. Maybe? Anyway, while I have still not got around to writing about the Afghanistan v. U.A.E. game for the half-dozen people who would have been interested to read it, I have put up some pictures from the match – of the action in the middle as well as of the fantastic fan presence – on my photo blog. You can see them here.

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The grudge match that wasn’t

Well, a preview of it, anyway.

I went to this match, and it was amazing. What wasn’t so amazing was my laptop, which decided that it had served me faithfully for quite long enough, dammit, and it sure as hell wasn’t going to be doing that any more. My internet service provider took its side in our dispute, and cut off my internet connection to show me where I get off. (They said it was an “accident,” but I wasn’t born yesterday. I know the truth, Internet Company.)

So I’m rewriting the post I’d already written about the match, and re-uploading the 500-odd pictures I took during it, after which I will re-edit these pictures down to the few best ones and post those too. Hopefully it will be less traumatic for all concerned this time around.

The Littlest Fan

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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.

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