Special Correspondent with inputs from agencies
Cricket is a global sport, and most countries play this game. It is also among the most-watched and loved sport in the world. As we all know, Cricket is connecting people all around the globe, irrespective of their color, creed, and nationality. The zeal and zest of people with Cricket are unmatchable. This energy and connectivity bring Cricket to Afghanistan and a dream to win a World Cup for Afghanistani players. But these dreams seem to be fading as Afghanistan is under serious governmental and economical crisis.
Cricket has grown in popularity in Afghanistan over the last two decades, from refugee camps in Pakistan to full membership in the International Cricket Council. Afghanistan played first Cricket during the British colonial era in the nineteenth century. Still, it was in the Peshawar refugee camps in northern Pakistan that the modern game took root. The game has grown in popularity over the last two decades, and it is now the most popular sport in Afghanistan. The International Cricket Council (ICC) has supported the growth of Cricket in Afghanistan, and the men’s team’s progress has been one of the sport’s greatest feel-good stories in the current era.
However, the future of the Afghanistan’s cricket team is being called into question. In recent years, Afghanistan’s sudden rise in Cricket has been the sport’s biggest fairytale, but the conflict-torn country now faces international isolation following the Taliban’s takeover in August. The ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 was held in the UAE and Oman. For the tournament, many teams competed against one another. Afghanistan has made a strong performance in the competition thus far. The Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August, casting doubt on the Afghan team’s future.
According to a social media posts, Afghan Cricket Squad captain Mohammad Nabi was carrying the entire amount for the team’s participation in the T20 World Cup because the Taliban refused to sponsor the team. True, there have been fears about the future of Afghan Cricket since the Taliban took power, which the Islamist party has attempted to relieve. ‘Sediki Group,’ on the other hand, is the official sponsor of the Afghan cricket team for the T20 World Cup. Nabi also rejected the viral claim in an email to AFWA, calling it fake.
Initially, there was some criticism about the Taliban’s stance on Cricket.
Ahmadullah Wasiq, the deputy head of the Taliban’s cultural commission, said in an interview with Australia’s SBS that Cricket would “continue without interruption” and that the Afghan team can play with other foreign teams.”
Mr. Wasiq’s declaration, however, came with a keyword of caution, which is that any sport “shall be done in a manner that is not ‘un-Islamic’ and against Afghan traditional values.”
So yet, it’s unclear what constitutes “un-Islamic” behavior in men’s Cricket.
While the Taliban are expected to stay supportive of the men’s cricket team, the Taliban’s hardline attitude against women’s participation is unlikely to be changed, regardless of the consequences. “We have fought for our religion in order for Islam to be practiced. We will not deviate from Islamic ideals, even if it means suffering negative consequences. We would not abandon our Islamic principles “Wasiq stated.
Given the Taliban’s constant unfavorable attitude toward women’s Cricket, the team’s future appears poor. Women’s Cricket has had a difficult time gaining ground in Afghanistan due to religious and cultural prejudices regarding women participating in sports. In 2010, the first national women’s squad was founded; however, it was dissolved in 2014. And now, the future of the women’s cricket team is again in danger. Cricket Australia has postponed a one-off men’s test against Afghanistan scheduled for later this month due to fears that the new government in Kabul will prohibit women from participating in the sport. In the meantime, the International Cricket Council (ICC) has yet to state the matter, with a board meeting scheduled for next month. Whatever decisions the global cricket community makes, the struggle of those who play Afghanistan’s most popular sport, particularly women, appears heartless, with concerns about personal safety and family welfare far greatly outweighing the merits of any particular match or tournament.
Roya Samim, an Afghan female cricketer, expressed disappointment with the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) lack of support for female cricketers in the country. She stated that since the Taliban assumed control of the country, female cricketers are unsure about their future in the sport. “According to Samim, “We all emailed the ICC but received no response. Why don’t they reply to us, don’t they think about us, and even treat us as if we don’t exist in the world? We urged that the ICC safeguard all the females once the Taliban entered Kabul. We are concerned about our team. The Afghan Cricket Board (ACB) said nothing, only stating, “Wait.”
The ICC, on the other hand, has denied receiving any emails. Taliban officials have stated that they will not replicate the former Taliban government’s destructive laws, which prohibited most girls from attending school and restricted women from walking out in public without a male guardian. However, it appears that women will not be able to play at any level shortly.
The ICC has decided to take a wait-and-see approach with Afghanistan and will now seek proposals from its working board to determine whether Afghanistan can remain a full member of the ICC. This situation is heartbreaking, especially for Afghanistan cricket fans and generally for good cricket lovers. But, as after every dark night, there is a bright morning. Afghanistan Cricket will undercome these situations and make a good comeback sooner or later.