Afghanistan skipper dedicates victory to ‘struggling refugees’

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Afghanistan’s captain Hashmatullah Shahidi watches the ball after playing a shot during the 2023 ICC Men´s Cricket World Cup one-day international (ODI) match between Netherlands and Afghanistan at the Ekana Cricket Stadium in Lucknow on November 3, 2023. —AFP

LUCKNOW: In yet another political statement by an Afghan cricketer during the ongoing ICC Men’s World Cup 2023, their skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi has dedicated the team’s victory over the Netherlands to “struggling refugees”.

This is for the second time the Afghan team has made such a statement during the ICC tournament. Earlier, Ibrahim Zardan passed similar comments after they won against Pakistan.

Afghanistan swept to a seven-wicket triumph with 111 balls to spare to record a fourth win at the tournament after already shocking defending champions England, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

With two group games left, they have eight points, the same as Australia and New Zealand although their rivals boast better net run rates.

Undefeated India have already made sure of a semi-final spot with South Africa almost certain to join them.

After the victory, Hashmatullah turned his thoughts to the desperate plight of compatriots on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

More than 165,000 Afghans have fled Pakistan in the month since Islamabad issued an ultimatum to 1.7 million people to leave or face arrest and deportation.

“A message to our country back home. We know that a lot of refugee people are struggling. We are watching the videos and we are sad for them,” said 28-year-old Hashmatullah.

“We are with them in these tough times and I want to dedicate this win to them, who are in pain, and to everyone back home.”

Hashmatullah said he also has private reasons to be pushing towards the last-four.

“I lost my mother three months ago and my family is in a lot of pain,” he said.

“We are still dreaming and we are still trying our best to make the semi-final. That would be such a big achievement for our country and for me.”

Afghanistan coach Jonathan Trott said he admired his players for being in touch with the myriad of problems facing their country.

‘Touch people’

“I think the players are attuned with everything that’s going on back home, whether it’s an earthquake and other things,” said the former England batsman.

“I think they’re enjoying the joy that they’re giving to the Afghan people and the smile that they currently have on their face in the changing room, but also the smiles that’s giving everybody else.

“That’s the great thing about sport and being able to touch people further afield than just here in the stadium or in this country, but back home as well.”

Before this year, Afghanistan had won only one match at World Cups and that was against Scotland on their debut in 2015.

Four years ago, in the United Kingdom, they lost all nine games they played.

On Friday, set 180 to win, Rahmat Shah (52) hit his third successive half-century while Hashmatullah made an undefeated 56, also his third crucial innings in a row.

Veteran off-spinner Mohammad Nabi was man-of-the-match for his 3-28.

“Mohammad Nabi is a special player. He is so talented and he loves to take responsibility with the ball like he did today,” said Hashmatullah.

Next up for Afghanistan on Tuesday is a potential grudge match against five-time champions Australia.

In January, Australia controversially cancelled a series against Afghanistan in protest, they claimed, at the Taliban’s treatment of women.

“We have good team unity. We are very united and we are always playing for the team and winning for the team,” added Hashmatullah.

The Netherlands, who have stunned South Africa and Bangladesh at the tournament, were undone Friday by four run-outs.

“The run-outs were hard to come back from, we set ourselves up for a good total. They have quality spinners through the middle and we didn’t have our top-order batters to face them,” said skipper Scott Edwards.

“We’ve done well batting first, defending scores. We thought if we scored 280 we’d be well in the game.”

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