June 22nd 2017 saw two very contrasting nations go through a barrage of emotions. For one war-torn country, it was an acknowledgement that the world was showing them, the triumph of sports over war. For the other, it was the joy of finally getting what they’ve deserved for quite a while, moving from the tag of giant-killers to giants themselves.
The excitement in the air was palpable, as a group of key ICC members led by their chairman Mr. Shashank Manohar elevated the status of these two countries from ‘associates’ to ‘full members’. Afghan fans took to the streets and payed the Mecca of cricket, Lord’s, a little visit. Fans packed the place with loud music blaring, parading the bright red and green colours of Afghanistan with pride.
Most cricket fans would agree that these are the two best associate nations, barring some Dutch fans who wouldn’t be pleased. But even they would agree with the commendation that Ireland’s consistency and Afghanistan’s meteoric rise deserves. Ever since their first major victory in 2006 against Scotland, the Irish have not looked back. Fans throng to the grounds to see their fellow countrymen entertain them, and they don’t disappoint, consequently producing many showmen. The first international game in Ireland ended with the Irish beating an England side by 107 runs in 1855- the first accomplishment in Ireland’s growing résumé. The consistency with which they perform in major tournaments has earned them the tag of ‘giant killers’. Just like Ireland, Afghanistan set the ball rolling with a win against Scotland. Afghan cricket has seen a lot of ups and downs. Refugees from Pakistan brought back a century old sport to lug out a century old turmoil. Cricket in Afghanistan is a reflection of life itself. So, if cricket can win, there is new hope for its parallel as well.
The players in these sides have shown a remarkable level of skill and loyalty. Cricket Ireland hopes Rankin is the last player to leave Ireland to go play for England. The players have backed the play of the board showing a great level of devotion over the past many years. Former Sussex Captain Ed Joyce has returned to the Irish scheme of things after quitting county. With this being the most experienced Irish side, very little is left to imagination regarding their reason for inclusion in the ‘full member’ status. With the Afghan domestic tournament being awarded first class status, it’s only a matter of time more Rashids and Nabis take center stage. In true testimony to everything our blog believes in, a lot of credit is due to the heroes behind the eleven, particularly the respective cricket boards who have lubricated the transition of these slides into something special. Take Cricket Ireland top boss Warren Deutrom for instance, who had the last laugh after being ridiculed for aspiring a test status five years ago.
Credit has to go to the ICC as well for the efforts they’ve taken. With a reworked constitution, ICC has set out to ensure parity amongst every nation part of the council. These instances act as motivators and inspire new trust in the onlooker who chooses to be suspicious about murky waters, no matter how shallow. Many pundits have already called this out to be the decision of the century. The night is still young though, and on this very night many people across hundreds of nations will go to bed believing that they too can reproduce what two distinct yet close nations could do….