Keep politics away from sports: Afghanistan Cricket Board CEO after win over Australia

Rashid Khan-led side beat Aussies in a Super Eights match of the T20 World Cup; the win is the country's first against the team from Down Under in any format.
Pacer Gulbadin Naib was the architect of the victory for Afghanistan claiming 4/20 from his four overs.
Pacer Gulbadin Naib was the architect of the victory for Afghanistan claiming 4/20 from his four overs.

CHENNAI: They had come agonisingly close not once but twice to beat the mighty Australians only to falter at the last hurdle. Be it the 2022 T20 World Cup in Australia or the 2023 ODI World Cup in India, it was a tale of 'so close, yet so far' for Afghanistan. All that changed on Saturday, June 22 — incidentally exactly seven years after the country was accorded full member status by the ICC — when Rashid Khan-led side finally registered a 21-run victory over Aussies in a crucial Super 8s match in Kingstown, St Vincent.

Despite them being one of the most improved sides in world cricket, the win over the 2021 T20 WC champions was termed as an upset result. No longer underdogs, Afghanistan have consistently been coming up with performances that make everyone sit up and take notice.

What makes their contests against heavyweights Australia spicy is the recent history they share.

Cricket Australia (CA) had postponed a three-match T20I bilateral series against Afghanistan last year and hoped to hold it in August this year only to announce the deferment again. Earlier, the CA had also postponed the hosting of a one-off Test. The reason was a deterioration in human rights for women and girls in Afghanistan.

The issue was the talking point during the ODI World Cup and the same was being talked about again this time of the year ahead of the clash. The only difference, however, will now be the Afghanistan triumph — their first in any international outing against the six-time ODI WC champions. Unfortunately, the two sides have played only six matches against each other (four ODIs and two T20Is) so far and only one of those ties was a non-World Cup fixture when they met in a 50-over contest in Sharjah in 2012.

While it aptly depicts the sorry state of affairs in international cricket, it also emphasises why teams like Afghanistan deserve equal opportunities against all cricket-playing nations.

Skipper Rashid could only wish that they could do anything on the issue when asked about the CA's stand at the post-match press conference but Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) chief executive officer (CEO) Naseeb Khan minced no words urging everyone to keep politics away from the sports.

"We urge to keep the politics away from sports and express real sportsmanship in cricket. So we call upon all the teams to play with us not only in mega events but rather play us in bilateral cricket as well to let the world and the fans across the world enjoy some quality cricket," the ACB CEO told this daily.

Naseeb said the victory will reinforce Afghanistan's growing stature as a quality cricket team. "All of us, the leadership of ACB, the coaching staff and the captain planned for it (win versus Australia) and then stayed on the same page to execute it to perfection. We have had close games with Australia in the past. These victories are good enough to state that Afghanistan is turning out to be a force to be reckoned with and has the ability to beat any team in the world on any given day."

Speaking on the preparations for the tournament, the CEO said, "We have had excellent preparation since the start of the year. We played UAE, India, Sri Lanka and Ireland in T20Is this year, and then conducted the inaugural edition of the Qosh Tepa National T20 Cup on the edge of the T20 World Cup as part of the preparation for the event. In addition, we sent our team two weeks earlier to get used to the conditions and the hot weather there."

Brief scores: Afghanistan 148/6 in 20 overs (Gurbaz 60, Zadran 51; Cummins 3/28, Zampa 2/28) beat Australia 127 in 19.2 overs (Maxwell 59; Gulbadin 4/20, Naveen 3/20).

Pacer Gulbadin Naib was the architect of the victory for Afghanistan claiming 4/20 from his four overs.
Afghanistan shock Australia by 21 runs in Super 8s match of T20 World Cup

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