Afghanistan Cricket Team: War Couldn't Break Them, Boundaries Won't Stop Them - Stun T20 World Cup

Formed in 1995, Afghanistan's Cricket Board rose from affiliate member in 2001 to achieve full ICC membership and Test status in 2017

T20 Cricket WCup Afghanistan Australia
T20 Cricket WCup Australia Afghanistan Photo: AP/Ramon Espinosa

Ravaged by war, almost no infrastructure or stadium of their own, also weighed down by the politics of sports and yet Afghanistan have managed to punch way above their weight in the ongoing T20 World Cup in the West Indies. (Full Coverage | More Cricket News)

Though the Afghanistan Cricket Board was formed in 1995, it became an affiliate member of ICC in 2001, and a decade later, earned Test status and a full ICC membership in 2017.

Cut to the 2024 T20 World Cup and the Afghans have not only announced their arrival -- taking the tournament by storm by reaching the Super 8 stage --, they are now on the verge of making the semi-finals after stunning former champions Australia.

This has been primarily due to some audacious and electrifying individual and collective performances. So, what has been the reason for their sudden rise? Is it the format that allows them the freedom to excel, or is it due to their full utilisation of the recent international exposure in different T20 leagues?

Former India cricketer Vijay Dahiya attributed this to their mental and physical toughness acquired from playing in different conditions on the international stage in T20 different leagues.

"This Afghan team is mentally very tough and they are hungry. They are tough physically too but in cricket mental toughness matters more. I won't be surprised if they reach the semi-finals."

"They believe in themselves and are now a very dangerous side. They have been a phenomenon," he told PTI Videos.

Dahiya pointed out that most of the Afghan players have been competing at the international level in various T20 Leagues having high standards. However, Australia has consistently refused to host them for bilateral engagements citing the Taliban rule in the country and the resultant denial of women's rights.

"Look at their team. At least eight players compete in different leagues all over the world. They play in Big Bash, The Hundred, and IPL they play everywhere. They get experience and pass it on to the rest of the players," he pointed out.

"They have taken full advantage of their exposure. They have a great and inspiring captain in Rashid Khan. Dashing openers, experienced middle order, and a great bowling unit," he noted.

Two batters in particular -- Rahmanullah Gurbaz with 238 runs in six matches topping the batting chart and Ibrahim Zadran with 211 runs in fourth place -- have been revelations.

They have been instrumental in scoring big and also chasing down competitive targets. Not just the batting, the bowling chart of this World Cup leaderboard is also topped by an Afghan.

Fazalhaq Farooqi is the leading wicket-taker with 15 scalps in six matches -- two wickets more than the second-placed Adam Zampa of Australia.

Former India medium pacer Atul Wassan was quick to point out that the Afghans have large hearts and they play their game with full commitment.

"They fear nobody. They have nothing to lose. They have no other option but to assert themselves through cricket. Their T20 team looks solid. They have some outstanding T20 cricketers who can dash with the bat and attack with the ball. Look at Gurbaz and Zadran," he said.

"They are sensations. They have been simply outstanding. It's not just the number of runs but the way they have been scoring them. They have a great wrist spinner in Noor Ahmad."

He also pointed out that countries like India and UAE have helped them establish and develop their cricket in a big way.

Afghanistan will be hoping that India beats Australia on Monday and they themselves get the better of Bangladesh on Tuesday to reach the semi-finals and rewrite history.