Sushma Swaraj, former external affairs minister, passed away on Tuesday after suffering a massive heart attack. Her untimely death prompted an outpouring of grief across various spectrums on social media.
Swaraj’s term as minister was also a period during which she was most accessible, offering help round the clock and sometimes sharing her insights on various issues on Twitter. And on one such occasion during the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018, her tweet on Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan went viral.
Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) were taking on Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in an all-or-nothing fixture at Eden Gardens in the second qualifier of the Indian Premier League 2018.
In the gripping encounter which went down to the wire, it was Khan’s all-round abilities that took Hyderabad into the finals. Then a 19-year-old who was still a rising star, Khan scored a quickfire 34 off just 10 deliveries, and then returned a match-winning spell of 3/19 to help his team win by 14 runs.
It was a day when Khan truly emerged as one of the biggest ambassadors for the game of cricket from the war-torn country of Afghanistan. His heroic effort not only grabbed the imagination of India’s cricket-crazy fans but also led to calls for him to be granted Indian citizenship. His name was the top Twitter trend across India on the day after the match, with over 30,000 tweets on his performance.
Acknowledging the demand of cricket fans from across the nation, Swaraj responded with a witty tweet in which she clarified that the matter of citizenship rested with the Ministry of Home Affairs.
“@rashidkhan_19 – I have seen all the tweets. Citizenship matters are dealt with by Ministry of Home affairs”, she tweeted.
What made the conversation more interesting was the response of Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, who appreciated Rashid’s efforts, but was clear that they weren’t going to let the cricketing star go.
Afghans take absolute pride in our hero, Rashid Khan. I am also thankful to our Indian friends for giving our players a platform to show their skills. Rashid reminds us whats best about Afg. He remains an asset to the cricketing world. No we are not giving him away. @narendramodi
— Ashraf Ghani (@ashrafghani) May 25, 2018
It wasn’t the first time she had acknowledged Afghanistan’s prowess on the cricket field. In 2017, after Afghanistan achieved Test status, Swaraj had praised their spirit.
“The fact that Afghanistan attained the status of a Test-playing cricketing nation is a testament to the indomitable spirit of the people of Afghanistan to not let the forces of death and destruction prevail,” she was quoted as saying by PTI.
Cutting across national boundaries it was one of those rare occasions when cricket and diplomacy came together once again.