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Fighting for hope

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Every story about the Afghanistan cricket team begins with the mention of war and refugee camps. Every article talks about how the fragile country is in a constant state of fear. But all that was left behind, when Afghanistan took on India in the ICC World T20, 2012. The strong and sturdy players of this team played like they had a point to prove. However, it would be wrong to say they played with nothing to lose. For them, every victory creates hope in a country where there is none. That is a burden no other nation competing in this tournament has to bear.

When Mohammad Shazad played a helicopter shot that went for six, pretty much everyone watching broke into a smile. He showed why he is called Afghanistan's Dhoni. The execution might just have been better than the Indian's. Even Dhoni broke into a smile, dismissing the fact that Karim Sadiq, Nawroz Mangal and Mohammad Nabi were belittling the Indian bowling attack. The Indian team always had bowling problems. However, being smacked by the Afghani batsmen did not rile up emotions amongst the Indian supporters. Instead it evoked a sense of awe for the Afghani team. Under the guidance of Taj Malik, these cricketers learned the game on rubble with adversity as the outfield. Struggling to gain acceptance even from their countrymen, these players are true cricket fanatics. Pure and honest cricket is always appreciated.

Imagine for a moment, not being able to play a sport because of an outfit that prohibits anything western or fun. It simply lights a burning rage in one's stomach. The Taliban then made an exception for cricket in 2000 and Afghanistan became affiliate members of the ICC in 2001. Their rise to becoming participants in the T20 World Cup in 2010 and 2012 is well documented in 'Out of the Ashes.' The team's survival itself is a struggle for victory.

Their participation epitomizes the fact that cricket brings people together. It can make an entire nation forget a raging war. Maybe just for a day or two but isn't that worth playing for? It is a celebration of team spirit. When these players travel out of the country on tour they are fascinated by buildings that haven't been razed and roads that do not have bullet shells strewn on them. For them it is a trip to peace. It is an escape to a land that is not their own.

When Afghanistan takes the field, as a cricket team they have only the match to lose. As a nation, the match is another chance to lose themselves in the tranquility of the sport. Taj Malik mentions in an interview that their qualification for the World Cup prompted singing and dancing in Afghanistan. The team was also invited by the President Hamid Karzai for lunch. Barrack Obama congratulated Hamid on their cricket team's performance. For them, every victory is a cause for celebration.

India found out that they are a team here to fight for a nation, not for the cup. They put up a valiant effort with both bat and ball. If not for Virat Kohli's half century and a few dropped catches, they may well have pulled off a victory. Afghanistan play fearless cricket not because they have nothing to lose, but because a nation cannot afford for them to lose.




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