For young Afghanistan skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi, overcoming challenges is second nature. He thrives on adversity and believes in the importance of consistency in all aspects of life, especially in cricket, where the success of the Afghanistan cricket team brings joy to a nation plagued by conflict.
The 28-year-old embraced the challenge of captaincy in all formats in May, hoping to end the frequent upheavals in that role.
When Afghanistan embarked on the ODI World Cup campaign last month, no one expected the strong run that has followed. Shahidi and his team though were fully confident of how they could surprise the higher-ranked teams. What has followed is victories over holders England, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Netherlands, the four wins in six matches keeping them in the reckoning for a semi-final berth.
Before 2023, Afghanistan had won only one match in the World Cup, against Scotland in 2015. In the 2019 World Cup in England, they suffered nine consecutive losses.
After losses to Bangladesh and India at the start, Afghanistan staged a remarkable comeback.
Shahidi’s successful run chases against Pakistan and Sri Lanka highlighted his batting ability, establishing him as one of the team’s most reliable performers.
With 282 runs at an impressive average of 70.50 in seven matches, he has been impressive. His scores against India (80), Pakistan (48*), Sri Lanka (58*) and 56* (vs. Netherlands) have set a high standard for fellow batters.
On Friday, Shahidi hit his fifth half-century of 2023, reaching his 19th ODI fifty to lead Afghanistan to a seven-wicket win over Netherlands. Shahidi dedicated the victory to the “struggling refugees” in Afghanistan. He said: “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.”
Over 165,000 Afghans have been forced to leave Pakistan since Islamabad issued a directive to the 1.7 million people to leave or face arrest and deportation.
“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. I lost my mother three months ago, and my family is in a lot of pain.
“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. We are very united, always playing for the team and winning for the team.”
Afghanistan though have two tough games left, against Australia and South Africa. Coach Jonathan Trott praised his players.
“The players are attuned to everything that’s going on back home, whether it’s an earthquake or other issues,” said the former England batter. “They’re enjoying the joy they’re giving to the Afghan people. (It is not just) the smiles on their faces in the changing room, but also the smiles they bring to everyone else.