x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 18 August 2017

World T20 diary, Day 10: A kind of home triumph for Afghanistan

Osman Samiuddin files a World Twenty20 dispatch from Delhi, where the Afghan population is not small and the joyful shock of Sunday's win over West Indies was not insignificant.

Afghanistan's players celebrate after winning the World T20 match against West Indies on Sunday. Punit Paranjpe / AFP / March 27, 2016
Afghanistan's players celebrate after winning the World T20 match against West Indies on Sunday. Punit Paranjpe / AFP / March 27, 2016

In the morning, or actually early afternoon, a little stroll to Lodi Gardens. To call it a park, as it often is called, is to do it the gravest injustice.

These gardens are gardens of history, located in leafy South Delhi. Casually scattered within them, to no great fanfare, are 15th century buildings, including the tombs of Mohammad Shah and Sikandar Lodi – the Lodi dynasty being the one that preceeded the Mughals.

The gardens stretch out over 90 acres of land and on Sunday, among the many picnickers were a surprisingly large number of Afghan families. The story of Afghan refugees in Pakistan is long and well developed, of course, but Delhi is also home to a large Afghan population.

I should have recgonised it for the portent it was. A few hours later I was getting a shave and a head massage in a barbershop (I absolutely and unequivocally deny that it was anything as fancy as a salon) and watching Afghanistan pull off the finest result in their international history.

They beat the West Indies, 2012 champions and group-toppers and, until Sunday, undefeated, by six runs and for the last two overs all pretence at work had been dropped. When Mohammad Nabi completed the last over, the place fell into a kind of stunned silence. It was, even accounting for the absence of Chris Gayle, a crazy result, but built on a very smart defence of a low total.

Though played in Nagpur, it was kind of a home game for Afghanistan. Less than an hour’s drive away from where we were in Delhi is the Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association stadium in Noida, which, as of December 2015, is the home of Afghan cricket.

Their board signed an MoU with the BCCI, which sees them move away from Sharjah, where they had played their home games until recently.

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