As the world watches the situation in Afghanistan unfold, the International Cricket Council (ICC) also has an eye on the matter. Cricbuzz understands that the ICC office in Dubai is in constant touch with the members of Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) in Kabul to “fully understand the impact of changes” happening in the country.
One of the biggest challenges in front of ACB could be the sustenance of women’s cricket in the country — something which has gone from strength to strength in recent times. In 2020, 25 female players were awarded central contracts for the first time, thus clearing the deck for the formation of a national women’s team. Skill-based camps were organised to further the efforts.
“That was a massive development. We don’t know what now,” said a source in ICC women’s cricket.
ACB acknowledges that as a full member of the ICC, it is “required to have a national women’s team of its own” but there’s a lot of uncertainty around what will come of their efforts in the time to come.
“I have not heard from the ICC on what is happening as far as women’s cricket in Afghanistan,” said Lisa Sthalekar, a member of ICC Women’s Cricket Committee, “but personally I am concerned about what is happening there.”
Despite the cataclysmic geopolitical changes, the country’s cricket community is hopeful of the game’s future. “Cricket in Afghanistan began from refugee camps and we have come a long way. With very limited resources, we climbed our way up to full membership,” Shafiqullah Stanikzai, former CEO of ACB under whom Afghanistan had attained full membership of the ICC in 2017, told Cricbuzz.
“I hope and pray that cricket in Afghanistan continues to grow. For us, it is beyond a sport, a game. Cricket has given us an identity making the image of Afghans around the world optimistic. Through cricket, we convinced the global community to invest in our talent and in Afghan youth. I hope this continues.”
Cricbuzz had earlier reported that changes are in motion at the top of the hierarchy in cricket too, with Azizullah Fazli set to replace current board chairman Farhan Yousefzai, who is understood to be out of the country. But a forced change in a board’s administration could attract the attention of the ICC which wants all its boards to be autonomous and free of government’s interference.
“For the moment we are focusing on the Pakistan series. We are confident it will happen. If it does not, due to reasons not relevant to us, we could advance the dates of Shpageeza Cricket League (the domestic league),” ACB spokesperson Hikmat Hasan said.
“The squad (for the Pakistan series) is already out. The coaches trained the players in Kabul for one month. We are well prepared for the matches in Sri Lanka and the Twenty20 World Cup in UAE. Our head coach Lance Klusener was in Kabul till the Eid. We have recruited Shaun Tait as bowling coach and he will be joining the squad in Sri Lanka,” Hikmat further added.