Like the fate of every debutant at the cricket World Cup has been so far, in the 2015 World Cup, Afghanistan is being dismissed as “one of the minnows”, a team most likely to bow out in the round robins, possibly even with the ignominy of a more established cricket-playing nation setting some kind of record playing against it (India, in 2007, set the record for the highest match score, of 413/8, against Bermuda which had debuted that year). There is no telling whether Afghanistan will stun its naysayers into silence like Kenya did in 2003 despite being considered a minnow (it had debuted in 1996, though) or it will join the likes of Namibia, the Netherlands and a bunch of other “also-played”. What is important though is to see how different is Afghanistan’s arrival from the others.
Most of the members of the Afghan team have probably gotten here having started with cricket in a country torn by civil war, and later, by an US-led invasion. As columnist Mini Kapoor notes, writing in the Open magazine, some of them yielded their first bat in refugee camps in Peshawar in neighbouring Pakistan. Cricket is also the sport that has largely held the dysfunctional nation together—it was one of the very few not banned by the Taliban regime. For the Afghans, their debut perhaps goes beyond mere participation.