How Gujarat has played big role in Afghanistan’s World Cup 2023 success
Afghanistan have beaten current champions England and former champions Pakistan and Sri Lanka in this World Cup.
Mohammad Nabi of Afghanistan celebrates the wicket of Sam Curran of England with his teammates during the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup India 2023 between England and Afghanistan at Arun Jaitley Stadium on October 15, 2023 in Delhi, India. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
AFGHANISTAN, a nation which has been a Test-playing one for just five years now and is currently appearing in only their third World Cup after two unimpressive previous runs in 2015 and 2019, has proved their mettle in the current edition in India.
The side led by Hashmatullah Sahidi started poorly when they lost to Bangladesh in the first match in Dharamsala on October 7 but has made an impressive turnaround since then. They beat current champions England and former champions Pakistan and Sri Lanka are now in the race for their first-ever semi-finals in the marquee tournament. While the task still remains tough for the Afghans who are yet to play in-form teams such as Australia and South Africa, Afghanistan’s show so far has been lauded by all.
While 11 Afghans on the field have been praised for their performance, the ‘Gujarat factor’ behind their success cannot be overlooked.
Two men from the western Indian state of Gujarat have played key roles in Afghanistan’s success.
Mentor Ajay Jadeja
One of them is Ajay Jadeja, a former India cricketer and captain, who has been Afghanistan’s mentor. Hailing from the erstwhile royal family of Nawanagar and having links with iconic cricketing names such as KS Ranjitsinhji and KS Duleepsinhji, after whom two prestigious domestic cricket tournaments (Ranji Trophy and Duleep Trophy) have been named, Jadeja continues to have a notable cricketing legacy although he faced a five-year ban following a match-fixing scandal in 2000 which was later overturned by a court in Delhi.
The 52-year-old former batter, who had played both as an opener and in the middle order and was a remarkable fielder, is more remembered for his ever-smiling demeanour on the cricket ground and the ruthless batting he had displayed against former Pakistan pace bowler Waqar Younis in Bengaluru, India, in the quarter-final of the 1996 World Cup.
Jadeja was appointed as the mentor of the Afghanistan team just days ahead before the World Cup started last month.
Batting coach Milap Mewada
The other Gujarati is Milap Mewada, a former first-class player who belongs to Gujarat’s Mehsana. He took over as Afghanistan’s batting coach in August. A former wicket-keeper-batter, the 49-year-old Mewada has coached batters of various domestic Indian cricket teams. He is believed to have helped the Afghan batters improve their batting technique and tactics, enabling them to overhaul even steep targets, like they did against Pakistan when they chased down 282 by losing just two wickets.
Apart from Jadeja and Mewada, there is another Gujarat connection that the Afghanistan team has, and it is India’s dairy giant Amul which is its official sponsor.
The association between Afghanistan and Amul dates back to the late 1960s when British India’s renowned freedom fighter Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, also known as ‘Frontier Gandhi’, visited the dairy in Anand in Gujarat to understand the potential of India’s White Revolution and met its father Varghese Kurien.
Amul became the official sponsor of the Afghanistan cricket team in 2019 after the country became a full member of the International Cricket Council and has become the same this year as well.
Jayen Mehta, managing director of the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation, told the Times of India that they are proud to build their association with the Afghanistan men’s cricket team.