Young Afghan side among the favourites for T20 World Cup, claims opener Atal – Sport

A young Afghan side with an average age of just 25 have vowed to give audiences back home a rare cause for jubilation at the T20 World Cup after a breakthrough performance at the 50-over showpiece.

Kabul’s skies were raked with fireworks when Afghanistan celebrated their stunning eight-wicket victory against Pakistan in the ODI World Cup in October.

They finished sixth, ahead of defending champions England — who they also beat — stoking hopes for the T20 tournament in the United States and West Indies beginning on Saturday.

“In the past when we would defeat a bigger team, our victory was tagged as an ‘upset’,” 22-year-old Sediqullah Atal told AFP on the phone from their training camp in the West Indies.

“The word ‘upset’ is no longer in the dictionary and we are ranked among the favourites,” the left-handed opening batsman said, insisting his team is “no less than anyone”.

Afghanistan has been through decades of war, but the country’s passion for cricket has never gone away.

“When you have the support of 40 million people and they motivate you, it is a feeling of absolute delight,” said 20-year-old all-rounder Nangeyalia Kharote.

forced the United States and its allies out of the country before seizing power in 2021.

The Taliban rulers, yet to be recognised by any country, have effectively banned women from sports however under their austere interpretation of Islam.

Afghanistan’s participation in the World Cup therefore comes with some controversy, skirting the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) rules which stipulate all Test-playing nations must have a women’s side.

The ICC has previously said the matter is “pending”, allowing Afghanistan to compete — although England and Australia have refused to play them outside the World Cup.

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