Asia Cup: Guns and roses as Afghans celebrate win vs Bangladesh
Afghanistan defeated a Test playing nation for the first time and the reason for their success was not just their on-field heroics. No. It was as much to do with fans back home praying diligently for a reason to celebrate.
Bullets kept babies up all night in Kabul on Saturday. For a change though, mothers were not complaining as the nation celebrated its cricket team's first win against a Test playing country.
Afghanistan vanquished Bangladesh by 32 runs in their Asia Cup match in Fatullah. For a country ravaged by war, it was a hard-fought battle which deserved every celebratory bullet fired into the night sky over capital Kabul. The style of celebration may have been vastly different from anywhere else. The jubilation on the streets though clearly showed the value of the win - one that other powerhouses in the sport would brush aside with arrogance.
There was nothing arrogant about the festive spirit on Saturday night though as hundreds of fans came out to greet each other after their team's win. Sweets were distributed, flags were waved - jingoistic levels of patriotism clearly visible on every single face. From boys of five to weathered men in their fifties - there was no distinction in how local Afghans rejoiced. "Each time we win in cricket, most say it was a fluke. Each time we win, we want to say it isn't fluke by our celebrations," said Ahmed Raza Fakr, a student in Kabul University. "We have done well in football and cricket in the recent past and have become a team to consider seriously. Soon we will lose our tag of being minnows."
Afghanistan have indeed played better than what experts would have predicted at the start of Asia Cup 2014. In their two matches so far, the young side has pushed their opposition to the limits. Against Pakistan in their opener, Afghanistan bowlers restricted the target to 249 and even looked like chasing down the total before losing by 72 runs. Two days later, the team went the extra distance against hosts Bangladesh.
A chance to play in international cricket tournaments may be rare. When the team does take to the field however, nobody can doubt the effort and the sheer passion on display. And their fans are no different. "Our fans have always prayed for us and they love us so I'd like to thank them," skipper Mohammad Nabi said after his side's latest win. "Our first win against a Full Member (of the ICC). Fans and the whole country must be celebrating and we'll try to do even better in the coming matches," he added.
With stronger opponents - India and Sri Lanka - coming up in the week, Afghanistan's task is by no means complete. The warrior-like spirit though will resonate amongst players as much as it would amongst fans back home - earnestly praying for just one more reason to erupt in well-deserved merriment - gun-shots and all!