The Afghanistan team celebrating after a wicket © Getty Images
The Afghanistan team celebrating after a wicket © Getty Images

The year 2015 saw one of the most celebrated events of the game of cricket, ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 being played in Australia and New Zealand, but it was historical in more than one reason. The warriors from Afghanistan, who fought all sorts of battles had already risen, as they became the newest member to take a part in the 50-over cricket World Cup. Afghanistan’s participation in the tournament was special for more than one reason — not because the cricket was expanding with the Asian country playing a global tournament — but because their story told us about the victory of good over evil, told us about the downtrodden rising and matching up to the rest. Afghanistan’s participation in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 was special enough, but more than heartening was to see them fighting back in one of the league matches, and registering a victory when all doors seemed to be closed.

It will not be exaggerating to say that the Afghanistan cricket team is currently enjoying a magnificent period that they would not like to stop anytime soon, especially when the ICC World T20 2016 is just a few months away. After all, the Afghans have been excelling in shorter formats on a regular basis, and familiar conditions in India would provide them ample amount of scope to bring their A game forward.

Afghanistan started off the year 2015 with the Dubai Triangular Series in United Arab Emirates (UAE). Though Ireland lifted the trophy, Afghanistan clinched victory in two of the four matches in the series. Next up on Afghanistan’s cricket calendar was ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. Afghanistan had qualified for the cricket World Cup for the very first time and made their debut against Bangladesh. They were handed a huge 105-run defeat in their debut match, but their much-awaited maiden victory on the global stage came against Scotland in their third match. That was the only match that Afghanistan won in the series and were sent home from the group stage itself. READ: The rise and rise of Afghanistan cricket

However, no one, can ever forget the wide, stretched arms of the big man Shapoor Zadran, running towards his teammates after the Afghans had created history. It was indeed a special day, for Afghanistan, and for cricket.

Though the Afghanistan cricket team couldn’t put up a remarkable performance in their first-ever global tournament, but the heart and character that they showed will always be remembered.

Meanwhile, their captain Mohammad Nabi became the second bowler from Afghanistan to take 50 wickets.

After the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, Afghanistan visited Zimbabwe for a tour including five ODIs and three Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is) and embarked on a journey of making something really special. The ODI series turned out to be very interesting affair as both the teams went on winning alternative matches, but it was Afghanistan in the end who lifted the trophy defeating the hosts by a massive 73 runs in the final clash.

Zimbabwe were the more experienced side, but it was Afghanistan who showed tremendous fight till the end and returned home victorious, from their first-ever ODI away series, against a Test playing nation.

The success story continued in T20Is as well! Afghanistan’s T20I journey has been exceptionally fruitful in the year 2015 — they won 9 out of the 11 they played. Afghanistan won five of the six games in the ICC World T20 Qualifier for 2016 and qualified for the upcoming tournament in the fifth place.

Next up, Afghanistan bagged the two-match T20I series against Zimbabwe in their home by a margin of 2-0. They performed exceptionally well in the series and ended a successful tour to Zimbabwe with the T20 series win. Afghanistan next played a disappointing T20 match against Hong Kong, wherein they were defeated by 4 wickets. But they went on to win the next two matches against Oman.

Nabi became the highest run-scorer in ODIs while Mohammad Shehzad remained the most run-getter in T20Is. Hamid Hassan remained the highest wicket-taker for both T20Is and ODIs. The team may have had a mixed year on the field in terms of success, but there are few men who have laid down the foundation of a strong empire if they stick to the good work that they have done.

Shahzad, in particular, was the player of the year for Afghanistan. In the T20 format he proved to be a one-man army — in 11 matches that Shahzad played, he scored 297 runs at an average of 27 and his strike rate being in excess of 156. This is not all, he was also the most successful wicketkeeper in international T20s with 12 dismissals in 11 matches, consisting of 7 catches and 5 stumpings. Samiullah Shenwari is on the eighth spot in this list, with 211 runs in only 9 matches!

The Afghan captain, Stanikzai was not behind as he ended the year 2015 with 227 runs in 11 matches — which is the fourth highest in the world as far as T20I cricket is concerned. Among the bowlers, it was Dawlat Zadran who finished the year at the fifth spot in the list of most wicket-takers. The Afghan bowler had 13 wickets from the 8 matches that he played this year.

(Paulami Chakraborty, a singer, dancer, artist, and photographer, loves the madness of cricket and writes about the game. She can be followed on Twitter at @Polotwitts)