Afghanistan is a beautiful place, with beautiful people. It has a rich sporting history, which includes cricket too. But now, with the sudden unexpected takeover of the country by the Taliban, all sporting activities, especially cricket, are perceived to be in danger of getting abandoned completely by the new hardline regime.
Cricket in Afghanistan – A brief history
Cricket started gaining popularity in Afghanistan in the early 1990s by players returning from refugee camps in Pakistan. In fact, cricket peaked in popularity during the first Taliban regime, between 1996 and 2001!!
This is mainly due to their devoted and often brilliant players who play the game with a lot of heart and purpose. For instance, players like Rashid Khan and Mohammed Nabi are global icons now.
Cricket in the current regime
As per the latest cricket news coming in from the war-torn country, Afghanistan Cricket Board CEO Hamid Shinwari has mentioned the Taliban love and support cricket. They would never abandon the game, simply because they love playing the sport; too much!! Many players are currently playing overseas, and, according to Shinwari, all players and their families are safe in the country.
Additionally, the former Chief Selector of the Afghan Cricket Board, Asadullah Khan, also thinks cricket won’t be affected much under the new Taliban regime.
According to Khan, too many changes in the Board management have affected cricket more negatively than the Taliban taking over Afghanistan!!
The most incredible fact about cricket in the Taliban regime is that the game is often played in areas controlled by the Taliban, especially those from neighboring Pakistan. In fact, the Taliban’s stronghold of Jalalabad is commonly regarded as the home of Afghan cricket!!
Taliban’s Meeting with National Cricketers
The Taliban representatives recently met with senior National players and Administrators, assuring them of complete support and encouragement from the new government. In addition, they also promised to look into current issues plaguing the national team at the moment.
The meeting was attended by Anas Haqqani, a member of the Political Office of Taliban, the
current National Team’s captain, Hashmatullah Shahidi, and former Chief Selector Asadullah Khan.
This took place a few days after another member from the Political Team, Sohail Shaheen, also promised full support for the Afghan National Team.
Upcoming Cricket Schedule for Afghanistan
According to the latest cricket news, Afghanistan is scheduled to play a 3-match ODI series against Pakistan in Colombo from 1st September. According to CEO Shinwari, all scheduled bilateral cricketing ties remain on track. Additionally, all Afghan players playing in the IPL also will be allowed to participate in the tournament.
For a country that has been ravaged and destroyed by decades of war and conflict many times, cricket is the only succor to a painful past and a cloudy future.
According to the latest cricket news and Shinwari, other major Cricketing Boards like the BCCI should take the initiative to engage the Afghan Cricket Board for more and more tournaments so that the game is not forgotten and abandoned.
But, for now, for all we know, the Taliban may be the ones cheering the loudest and most vociferously when Afghan cricketers play any match.