Witnessing history, Durani keen to revisit Kabul

The BCCI invited former India cricketer Durani, originally from Kabul, as a special guest at the toss for the historic Test between India and Afghanistan in Bengaluru.

Former India cricketer Salim Durani at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on Thursday.   -  SHAYAN ACHARYA

When Salim Aziz Durani left Kabul for India in 1937, he was just three. So, he does not have much memories of the Afghanistan capital city, but being a ‘Kabuliwala’ Durani knows what it feels to be an Afghan.

So, on Thursday morning, when Afghanistan made its Test debut against India at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, the Board of Control for Cricket in India chose the right man, Durani, for the toss. The 83-year-old travelled all the way from Gujarat to be with the Afghanistan players on their special day. “The Afghanistan players were happy to see me in person. After shifting to India, I have never been to Kabul, but I can feel their sentiments,” Durani told Sportstar.

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Though he did not get much chance to interact with the Afghanistan players, Durani made it a point to talk to captain, Asghar Stanikzai, and congratulate him for coming this far. “I told them that ‘this is your chance, and you have to work hard and listen to the coach.’ They should watch how higher-ranked teams like Australia or England are playing, that will help. But firstly, they must listen to the coach and manager,” Durani said.

While he agreed that the International Cricket Council should ensure that Afghanistan is awarded more international fixtures, he is satisfied the way the council has promoted the game. “ICC is the main body so they have to look into everything, but they are doing well and they must carry on this way,” Durani said.

Durani shifted to India with his father Abdul Aziz Durani — who was based in Kabul and later played a couple of games for undivided India before shifting to Pakistan after partition. Aziz left the country but Durani stayed back in Gujarat with his mother. “I plan to go to Kabul now (if health permits). I have been in India since I was three and it is my motherland,” Durani said, adding: “You know what, I learnt to speak English after coming to India.”

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Even at this age, Durani wants to visit his roots in Kabul and bring back some memories. “I met some of the friends who invited me to Kabul. I would love to go there. I will try to go sometime soon,” Durani said.

As Durani walked into the ground, the top officials of Afghanistan Cricket Board and the players rushed to shake hands with him. “You can understand what this moment means for them. It is always special for any team to visit another country and make its Test debut, you can imagine their emotions and their feelings. This is where they wanted to be in,” Durani said.

All this while, Durani has only heard stories and Afghani folklores, and life finally came full circle for the former India cricketer.