Afghan cricket fans celebrate their team's victory during the men's T20 World Cup cricket match between Afghanistan and Bangladesh, in the city of Khost province eastern of Afghanistan, June. 25, 2024. VOA
Afghan cricket fans celebrate their team's victory during the men's T20 World Cup cricket match between Afghanistan and Bangladesh, in the city of Khost province eastern of Afghanistan, June. 25, 2024. VOA

Joy in Afghanistan as national team makes cricket World Cup semifinal debut

The celebrations erupted shortly after the Afghan team completed a dramatic eight-run victory over the Bangladeshi side in a rain-affected, low-scoring match in St. Vincent in the West Indies late Monday.

ISLAMABAD — Thousands of people in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan took to the streets Tuesday to celebrate their national team's first-ever entry into the cricket World Cup semifinals by beating Bangladesh.

Video from several cities, many bordering Pakistan, showed joyous rallies in the streets early in the morning, with reports of celebratory gunfire by fans in some areas, including the capital, Kabul.

The celebrations erupted shortly after the Afghan team completed a dramatic eight-run victory over the Bangladeshi side in a rain-affected, low-scoring match in St. Vincent in the West Indies late Monday.

“It’s something of a dream for us as a team…it’s unbelievable. I don’t have the words to describe my feelings,” Rashid Khan, the Afghan team captain, said after the match. “I’m sure it’s going to be a massive celebration back home. It’s a massive achievement for us. The country will be very proud.”

Authorities in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar officially ordered residents to celebrate the cricket team’s success inside their homes and avoid taking to the streets and roads for security reasons.

Hibatullah Akhundzada, the reclusive supreme leader of the Taliban, lives and governs the country from Kandahar, issuing edicts based on his strict interpretation of Islamic law, which includes restrictions on women’s and girls' rights and freedom of movement.

Afghanistan scored 115 runs in their allotted 20 overs, but weather conditions led Bangladesh to chase a revised target of 114 runs in 19 overs under relevant cricketing rules.

Khan and Afghan pacer Naveen ul Haq displayed a brilliant bowling performance, bagging four wickets each and dismissing the Bangladeshi team for 105 in 17.5 overs.

Afghanistan will now face South Africa in the first semi-final in Tarouba, West Indies. Its historic semifinal appearance came two days after it surprised the world by scoring its first-ever victory over Australia, the cricketing superpower, in the Twenty20 World Cup jointly hosted by the United States and West Indies.

The Afghan victory has eliminated Australia from the tournament. After losing its crucial match to India earlier on Monday, Australia needed Bangladesh to defeat Afghanistan to advance to the semifinals.

Afghanistan players celebrate after defeating Bangladesh by eight runs in their men's T20 World Cup cricket match at Arnos Vale Ground, Kingstown, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, June 24, 2024.
Afghanistan players celebrate after defeating Bangladesh by eight runs in their men's T20 World Cup cricket match at Arnos Vale Ground, Kingstown, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, June 24, 2024.

Cricket began to gain popularity in Afghanistan following the ouster of the Taliban in 2001 by a U.S.-led military invasion of the country. Afghans, who had been living in refugee camps in Pakistan, are credited with bringing the game to their impoverished South Asian nation.

Afghanistan joined the International Cricket Council (ICC) in 2017. Since the Taliban returned to power in 2021, the national team has mostly trained and played outside the country.

The international community has not formally recognized the Taliban government mainly for restricting Afghan women’s access to education, employment, sports, and public life at large. The curbs have prompted some countries to boycott bilateral cricket competitions with Afghanistan.

Australia has declined to play Afghanistan several times.

This past March, Australian cricketing officials canceled a three-match series due to take place in the United Arab Emirates in August. They referenced government advice that the situation for women and girls was deteriorating in Afghanistan under Taliban rule.

The rare World Cup success of the national team and the resulting celebrations in Afghanistan contrast with the country's deepening economic, humanitarian, and human rights crises caused by years of war and natural disasters.

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