Nabi: ‘I hope we play our first Test against India’

“We have got huge support from the people of India. The BCCI too has helped us immensely. Without its support, it would have not been possible to reach this stage,” Nabi said

Afghan all-rounder Mohammad Nabi said the Test status gave his people something to cheer about and look forward to.   -  V.V. Subrahmanyam

They all knew it was coming, but went about their daily activities as usual.

On Thursday evening, when the International Cricket Council (ICC) awarded a full membership status to Afghanistan, one of its seniormost players, Mohammad Nabi, had taken his son to the barber.

As the star cricketer entered the salon, everyone came to congratulate him. While Nabi tried maintaining his cool and calm demeanour, his little son Rouhan had no idea what the fuss was all about. “He is getting irritated with so many people around,” Nabi laughed as he spoke to Sportstar from Kabul.

Taking a brief pause, a rather emotional Nabi continued, “He is too small to know what this day means for us. This is a dream we have been chasing for years now. And today, we are a Test playing nation.”

The fact that they would soon play the longest format of the game was yet to sink in. But Nabi admitted that the challenge would increase now.

Life is strange at times. On a day when the entire country is mourning (Kabul suicide car bomb blast), we got such a happy news in the evening. Hope this will help us regroup again - Mohammad Nabi

“I hope we play our first Test against India. That’s one dream all of us have. It would have been good, if we could take on India in Greater Noida,” Nabi said. That, however, is not quite possible. Even though, Greater Noida is Afghanistan’s home base, it would not be able to play a Test there as the ICC hasn’t yet given the stadium clearance to host Test matches. In such a scenario, the Afghans will have to play their ‘home’ Tests in Dubai.

“We have got huge support from the people of India. The BCCI too has helped us immensely. Without its support, it would have not been possible to reach this stage,” Nabi said, adding that playing in the Indian Premier League (IPL) has also helped them a lot.

“Now, everybody knows us in India and hopefully, things will improve further when we start playing Tests,” Nabi said.

The senior cricketer also admitted that this would inspire the people of Afghanistan. “This means a lot for the country. With so much happening around, this would at least give them something to look forward to,” Nabi said, drawing reference to Thursday’s suicide car bomb attack in Kabul that killed 30 people.

“Life is strange at times. On a day when the entire country is mourning, we got such a happy news in the evening. Hope this will help us regroup again,” Nabi added.

Nabi thanked all the senior players who have been part of Afghanistan’s journey. “Ireland has been eyeing a Test status for years. Compared to that, our journey started late, but it is a great feeling to be called a Test-playing nation,” the spinner, who was the first Afghan cricketer to be picked in the IPL auction, pointed out.

The Afghanistan team would be playing an exhibition match against the MCC XI at the Lord’s on July 11, and Nabi said that the preparations for Test cricket would begin after that. “All this while, we have been playing limited overs cricket. Now, we have a lot of planning to do. The real challenge begins now,” Nabi said with a smile.

As his abba spoke over the phone, little Rouhan kept wondering what prompted this sudden joy. He was under the impression that the Eid had come early. For a bunch of cricketers who battled the odds to live their dreams, Thursday evening was nothing less than a happy festival!