Afghanistan players celebrate win over England© AFP

Hovering near the upper echelons for some time, battle-hardened Afghanistan finally showed they belong among cricket’s elites, having received help from the sport’s behemoth, India. Ravaged by years of wars and internal conflicts, the country’s cricket team on Sunday caused a huge World Cup upset when they outplayed holders England by 69 runs for only their second World Cup win. Afghanistan cricketers trained a lot in Pakistan in their formative years and some of them even picked up the sport in refugee camps on the other side of the border. The team from the war-ravaged nation even made its T20 and ODI debut against Pakistan.

After that, however, the BCCI took over and played a massive role in the rapid rise of the game in the strife-torn nation.

The Shaheed Vijay Singh Pathik Sports Complex in Greater Noida became a temporary “home-ground” for the team in 2015 with BCCI lending a helping hand. They had shifted base to Noida from Sharjah and even played home international matches against Ireland in Greater Noida in 2017.

Afghanistan had also “hosted” a Twenty20 series against Bangladesh in Dehradun.

Besides, former India players Lalchand Rajput and Manoj Prabhakar have coached the Afghanistan team, the latter as bowling coach.

Strengthening the relations further between the two countries, BCCI had invited then Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani to watch the team play its first Test match in Bengaluru.

The side has come a long way since then, regularly playing in ICC world events besides earning their Test status.

Afghan players in the IPL too have helped spread the sport’s popularity in the country.

Afghanistan have always acknowledged the role India played in their development as a cricket nation.

When Afghanistan became the 12th Test playing nation five years ago, it culminated a 23-year journey that began in 1995, when the Afghanistan Cricket Federation was set up.

While they have had their moments in the last few years, Afghanistan were desperately looking for a result like the one they achieved on Sunday, against one of the game’s biggest teams.

It is quite remarkable that they were able to flatten England, the reigning world champions, despite rarely coming face to face with the established nations in the 50-over format.

Put in to bat on a wicket that had yielded big runs recently, Afghanistan notched a competitive total, and then out-performed the England bowlers with their spin trio dominating the formidable English batting line-up.

It was fitting that the team’s biggest ambassador Rashid Khan picked up the last wicket to seal the famous win and leave the English bruised and battered.

Needless to say, Afghanistan captain Hashmatullah Shahidi was delighted with the victory.

“I’m quite happy, all the teammates are happy. This is the best win for us, the confidence will be there for the next game and I’m very proud,” Shahidi summed up the mood.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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