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Afghanistan cricket team wins hearts and minds by standing up to the Taliban

Afghanistan cricketers hope that the winning start to their campaign in the T20 World Cup gives the fans back home in the war-torn country something to smile and celebrate about (Images courtesy: Twitter/@ACBofficials)

Afghanistan's 130–run victory over Scotland in their opening match of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 in Sharjah on Monday night has forged a strong sense of nationalism in the Afghan community, now spread across the world after the return of Taliban in Kabul.  

While there was a sizable fan attendance at the stadium, cheering Mujeeb Ur Rahman's five-wicket haul and Mohammad Shahzad's longest six of the Super 12s, millions of Afghans all over the globe had also tuned in for the game on their TV sets.

Draping Afghanistan flag over shoulders, fans stood in attention placing their right hand over the heart and sang the national anthem along with the players. Most of the eyes were moist, including those of Mohammad Nabi – the world's number one all-rounder right now – as the flag, as well as the national anthem, is banned by the Taliban regime back home.

The Afghan national anthem, Milli Surud in Pashto, was adopted by Loya Jirga – which represents the "highest manifestation" of the will of the people of Afghanistan – in May 2006. It mentions that "God is Greatest" as well as the names of the various tribes of Afghanistan and had replaced the Mujahideen battle song that was adopted by the Taliban in 1996.  


After taking control of the Panjshir valley – the ground zero of the anti-Taliban resistance in Afghanistan – Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesperson of the new regime, had announced that the next government will decide on the new national anthem and flag of the country.

"I salute the courage of our cricket heroes & their dedication to our national values. They sang the national anthem & hoisted our national flag in a very clear act of defiance to Pak backed Taliban terror tyranny," tweeted Amrullah Saleh, the former Vice President in the Ashraf Ghani government.

"Talib regime has no voice of its own & has a PM with no CV and voice," Saleh added as video of the Afghan players and fans getting emotional in Sharjah went viral on social media Monday night.

Even as the Taliban claimed that it loves cricket and will not hamper cricketing activities or harm cricketers and their families, there was a huge question mark over its team's participation in the ongoing World Cup.

Afghanistan T20 World Cup
As reported by IndiaNarrative.com, the return of the militant Islamist group had dealt a body blow to Afghanistan cricket and also its women's football team.

Hours after a Taliban spokesperson had said in September that cricket was not permitted for women under the Islamic law, the Australian cricket board had announced that it will not be hosting a historic Test match between the two nations scheduled to be played at Hobart from November 27.

As many as 26 players from Afghanistan's girls' national football team and their 54 family members had also escaped from Kabul and were granted asylum in Portugal.  

ICC Men's T20I Player of the Decade Rashid Khan had also openly expressed his fears after the bloodbath in his country.

"Stop killing Afghans & destroying Afghanistan. We want peace," he had tweeted earlier while urging the world leaders to not leave his countrymen in chaos.

Afghanistan T20 World Cup

Rashid, currently No 3 in the ICC T20 bowlers rankings, returned with figures of four for nine as Afghanistan sealed a huge victory on Monday.

"Great start. Congratulations to everyone and specially to the people back home. I hope this win has given you something to smile and celebrate. We will do the best and make the country and nation more proud. Your prayers and support is always key. Afghanistan zindabad," Rashid tweeted earlier today.

Even as some Taliban officials, including Zabihullah Mujahid, took to Twitter to congratulate the people of Afghanistan and the team on their winning start, the social media rallied behind the community which is going through terrible times once again.  

"They brought a smile to the face of a great grief stricken nation today and instilled new hopes in the hearts of all that this nation is alive and no one can hold it hostage," said former President Ashraf Ghani who had fled Kabul and is now in the UAE.

The downpour of emotions would certainly continue as the Afghans take on Pakistan in their next match on Friday.

Also Read: Return of Taliban deals a body blow to Afghanistan cricket and women's football team