Afghanistan coach Jonathan Trott hopes Sunday’s ICC World Cup 2023 upset win over England will “encourage boys and girls” to take up cricket even though the country’s Taliban rulers ban women from playing sport.
The 69-run victory will be regarded as one of the biggest shocks in the history of the tournament as Afghanistan ended a 14-match World Cup losing streak.
“It’s not just cricket that the guys are playing for,” said Trott, who recognised the significance of a win for a nation reeling from recent earthquakes and the Taliban’s fractious international relations.
“The guys are very knowledgeable of the things and the hardship that some people are going through because of the natural disaster and for various other reasons.
“And so, if this can give a smile to people’s faces but also encourage boys and girls to pick up a cricket bat or a cricket ball and get playing cricket wherever they are in Afghanistan, then that’s the sort of the goal that’s been achieved.”
Before Sunday, Afghanistan had only won one match at the World Cup when they defeated Scotland on their 2015 debut.
They lost all nine matches they played at the 2019 tournament in England, including a 150-run rout at the hands of the hosts.
But having scored 284 on Sunday thanks to dashing opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz’s blistering 80 and Ikram Alikhil’s 58, Afghanistan’s bowlers set to work.
Only Harry Brook with 66 showed any real defiance while spinners Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Rashid Khan claimed three wickets each as England were dismissed for 215.
The result left both sides with a win and two losses each after three games of the 10-nation tournament.
“This win is significant, certainly in the manner and by the margin as well,” added Trott.
“There’s a lot of confidence that will hopefully come from this, it’ll have a knock-on effect to all the other games, but not only in this World Cup, but for the future as well.”
Trott knows all about World Cup shocks. In 2011, he was part of the England team humbled by Ireland in Bengaluru despite him scoring 92.
“That’s the beauty of the World Cup, isn’t it? That’s what cricket’s about, it pushes and pulls you so much emotionally as a player and as a coach.
“But we can compete with anybody in the world.”
Next up for Afghanistan are New Zealand who have three wins from three games including seeing off England in the tournament opener.
New Zealand, runners-up at the last two World Cups, will be favourites.
Trott, however, believes that his players’ exposure to the international game through Twenty20 franchise cricket has only served to bolster Afghanistan’s self-belief.
“I think the fact that a lot of our players have played with the English players in franchise cricket, they get to know the ins and outs of each player so there’s that familiarity and also the confidence,” he explained.
“Sometimes I think when you see big Test-playing nations you sort of hold them in high regard. I think playing with players like that you see that they are human and you are just as entitled to win.”