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Thursday, April 1, 2021

Buzkashi ... Afghan ......... and one run penalty !!


Ever heard of this game .. .. ‘Buzkashi’  (literally "goat pulling" in Persian) a sport !!  in which horse-mounted players attempt to place a goat or calf carcass in a goal.   This is National game of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan,  is the 37th most populous country in the world. It has an area of 652,230 sq km. It is a landlocked country in South Asia. Its capital and largest city is Kabul. Pashto and Dari are its official languages.   It has six bordering countries that include Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Pakistan, and China. Afghanistan is famous for its pomegranates in Asia.  .. .. .. and has been ravaged by internal wars from various militant groups, actively supported by some outside countries !!

The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, John Sopko, at the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on National Security has said that the Taliban have not significantly changed their high levels of violence, or military and political objectives.  He said that Afghanistan remains exceptionally reliant upon foreign assistance, creating both an opportunity for donors to influence events there as foreign troops depart, adding that “and risks to a potential peace if they reduce assistance too much, too fast, or insist on conditions that cannot be achieved by the parties to the conflict.” Spoko added that the UN Development Programme estimates that poverty in Afghanistan, defined as income of 2,064 afghanis per person per month (around $1 a day), has increased to 68 per cent from its pre-pandemic level of 55 per cent. “Afghanistan is poor and suffers from illiteracy, inadequate infrastructure, weak governance, and now, heavy impacts from the Covid pandemic,” he said.

The plain-speaking letter from the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani spells out that the United States envisages an ‘inclusive’ government in Afghanistan that will allow the Taliban a 50 per cent share in power in exchange for a ceasefire. An interim government for a transitional period of three years will work out new institutional arrangements. All of this will be endorsed through an international conference under the aegis of the United Nations, hosted by Turkey. The Afghan constitution will be revised, with the present one serving as ‘an initial template’.  The Biden Administration first maintained that the Taliban had reneged on the three major commitments made by it in the February 2020 Doha Agreement, namely, cutting off its links with al-Qaeda and the Haqqani Network, reducing violence, and engaging in meaningful intra-Afghan negotiations. Blinken’s letter shows that President Biden has now embraced the policy followed by his predecessor. US forces began to pull out within weeks of the conclusion of the US-Taliban Doha Agreement. This resulted in a spike in targeted assassinations, a growing area of control under the Taliban and greater collection of taxes by it, and dramatically reduced intelligence inputs for the Afghan defenders.

The Afghan people desperately want peace and reconciliation. The question is: at what cost? Pakistan wants a pliant government in Kabul, capable of limiting Indian influence in Afghanistan. The Taliban, under Pakistan’s tutelage, will severely abrogate human rights, end the experiment with pluralism and democracy, destroy emerging Afghan institutions, and reverse the gains made since 2001. This may not be acceptable to Afghan patriots and republicans. Pakistan has got into the habit of being the gatekeeper of Afghanistan’s international interactions. The Pakistan army continues to treat terrorist groups as strategic assets. Even at the height of the insurgency and the killing of American troops in Afghanistan, the United States seemed helpless—concerned, but resigned.

India’s strategic interests in Afghanistan are best protected if India ensures, in association with other involved countries, that Afghans stand on their feet and make their own decisions. If they do so, India will have nothing to worry about, for Afghans value their sovereignty, independence, and their relationship with India. India has so far assisted in constructing roads, dams, schools, clinics, and the Afghan parliament.   India must continue to stand by Afghanistan and sustain its stabilisation with a long-term commitment.

While all is not well at the political front  - they are enjoying success and has reasons to celebrate on playing arena.  At  Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi in Test no. 2415  -  Hashmatullah Shahidi became the first Afghanistan player to score a double-century in Test cricket. Asghar Afghan briefly held the record for the highest individual score for Afghanistan with his 164 before Shahidi overtook him. Before that, Rahmat Shah's 102 against Bangladesh in the 2019 Chattogram was Afghanistan's only hundred in their first five Tests.  It took a grand effort from their acclaimed spinner (IPL hero) Rashidkhan to pull off their 3rd victory in their 6th test.    Rashid bowled 99.2 overs across back-to-back Zimbabwe innings and picked up 11 wickets. The other bowlers from both sides picked up a combined 16 wickets from 327.1 overs.

In a bizarre event, Afghanistan were given a run penalty during the 2nd Test against Zimbabwe after one of their fielders deliberately conceded a boundary of the last ball of an over so that Zimbabwe’s No.10 batsman would be on strike in the next over. The unusual incident happened on Day 3 of the Test on Friday, when Zimbabwe were on 281 for 8 with middle-order batsman Sikandar Raza (79*) holding one end. Along with Raza was Blessing Muzarabani, who Afghanistan wanted to have on strike.

Raza hit a yorker through the cover region. The ball stopped inches short of the boundary ropes. This was when fielder Hashmatullah Shahidi did something unusual. While stopping the ball, he put one of his feet over the boundary rope. On-field umpires Ahmed Shah Pakteen and Aleem Dar convened in the middle after the over and signaled that they had decided Shahidi’s act was intentional. An extra run was awarded to Zimbabwe and Raza was allowed to retain strike for the next over. According to 19.8 of The Laws of Cricket, ‘If the boundary results from an overthrow or from the willful act of a fielder, the runs scored shall be any runs for penalties awarded to either side and the allowance for the boundary and the runs completed by the batsmen, together with the run in progress if they had already crossed at the instant of the throw or act.’

Interesting !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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