Cricket team returns home to hero’s welcome
KABUL (Pajhwok): The Afghanistan cricket team returned home on Tuesday to a hero's welcome after earning a berth in next year’s ICC Twenty20 World Cup to be played in India.
Afghanistan beat Papua New Guinea (PNG) by six wickets in a must-win playoff and booked a place in the mega event before trouncing Oman to finish fifth in the qualifying round played in Scotland and Ireland.
The Afghan squad landed at the Kabul airport at 12 noon and was greeted by hundreds of fans from various parts of the country, beating drums and inging the national dance.
Besides the cheering fans, lawmakers, senior cricket board officials, representatives from the Presidential Palace and other high-ranking government officials greeted the players.
Afghanistan skipper Asghar Stanikzai told Pajhwok Afghan News at the airport he thanked the nation for always remembering the national side in their prayers.
He said both experienced and young players had been able to prove their worth at the ICC qualifying rounds and contribute to the team’s victories. Stanikzai said though rains had halted their advance in the qualifying event, still they were able to make it to the Word Cup.
“Despite having strong rival teams in the group, we were optimistic to earn first spot and directly qualify for the World Cup, but the luck was not with us.”
Former captain Mohammad Nabi Issakhel said he had been under low pressure for not being the skipper and played normally. He also praised teammates both senior and junior for playing well.
Wolesi Jirga member from southern Helmand province Nasima Niazi praised the national cricket team for making it to the T20 World Cup for a fourth time. “I am proud of our national team for always bringing us laurels,” she said.
Deputy minister for youth affairs at the Ministry of Information and Culture, Dr. Kamal Sadat, said cricket was the only game that brought joys and laurels to the nation.
Afghanistan won three matches in a row in the qualifying round, raising hopes for their direct entry into the Word Cup, but later their two matches ended in a draw due to rains, halting their advance. Afghanistan has taken part in 2010, 2012 and 2014 Twenty20 World Cups.
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