BENGALURU: Queens Road was yet to get busy when the Afghanistan team arrived at M Chinnaswamy Stadium. Thursday was going to be a special day and with Ramadan on, some of the players barely got sleep time.
Those who managed a few hours were woken up by family members from Kabul or Jalalabad and they headed for the stadium ahead of time, just like they have managed to earn a Test berth well ahead of some of the Associate nations.
The moment they had played countless times in their heads was here. Nawroz Mangal and Dawlat Zardan, who have contributed immensely to Afghanistan’s growth as a cricketing team, had flown in from Kabul. And so had the CEO of Afghanistan, with a message from the President. It was a historic occasion, but it was a pity that few turned up on time.
Then out walked an old man by the name Salim Durani. The 83-year-old walked the red carpet with BCCI GM Saba Karim by his side to lend support. Until Thursday, Durani was the only Test cricketer born in Afghanistan. The style that made him a cult figure is still intact.
After the toss, the players received their Test caps. They had arrived at the team hotel long back, but could not be worn. Some had touched it numerous times to get the feel and it was finally sitting perfectly on their head, the red colour adding beauty. In a way, it also reminded one of the history of a war-torn nation. It is also the dominant colour of the Pashteen cap.
At 9.30, Yamin Ahmadzai ran in and missed his steps. The moment had to wait a little longer. It arrived a minute later and even before they could get a feel of it, Shikhar Dhawan was running away with their moment.
But, in the stands, there were a few rejoicing every moment. In Delhi, Hyderabad and Bengaluru, there are many from the land-locked country, enrolled in various universities. Although they had a football team to support, it wasn’t their sort of sport. How cricket managed to do that is itself a fascinating story.
“For us, cricket is bigger than football. You go there and you will find Kohli is more popular than Messi, because he is on television more than others,” one fan says.
Among them is Hazrat Umar Shenwari, who is quick to add that he belongs to the same tribe as Rashid Khan. Now pursuing BBA at Hyderabad’s Osmania University, he has cut short his semester leave and flown in from Jalalabad for this match, not listening to his folks pleading him to be at home for Eid. When he first arrived in India and told classmates he was from Afghanistan, the first question was “Do you know Rashid Khan?”
“People are usually scared when we say we are from Afghanistan. They use to think of us as terrorists or something, but thanks to the cricket team, that has changed. It is only about cricket now. We feel very good when we watch our cricketers representing the country.
“It’s a team of Pakhtoons, yes, but in our country, all the ethnicities are now glued to cricket. It has helped bring peace and Rashid is the first Afghan who has become popular the world over for good reasons. We can’t describe this feeling,” he said. And he wasn’t the only one.
Dhawan blitzes to record
Shikhar Dhawan became the first Indian to notch up a century before lunch on the first day of a Test while blazing his way to a 96-ball 107 against Afghanistan. He joined Victor Trumper, Charles Macartney, Don Bradman, Majid Khan and David Warner in achieving this unique distinction. The previous record for highest score by an India batsman in the first session of a Test was held by Virender Sehway, who made 99 against West Indies in Gros Islet in 2006.
India: Vijay lbw Wafadar 105, Dhawan c Nabi b Ahmadzai 107, Rahul b Ahmadzai 54, Pujara c Nabi b Mujeeb 35, Rahane lbw Rashid 10, Karthik run out 4, Pandya (batting) 10, Ashwin (batting) 7. Extras: (b1, lb11, nb1, w2)15. Total (6 wkts, 78 ovs) 347. Fall of wickets: 1-168, 2-280, 3-284, 4-318, 5-328, 6-334. Bowling: Ahmadzai 13-6-32-2, Wafadar 15-4-53-1, Nabi 8-0-45-0, Rashid 26-2-120-1, Mujeeb 14-1-69-1, Stanikzai 2-0-16-0.