Since Afghanistan’s elevation to an ICC full-member almost five years ago, their journey has been nothing short of tumultuous. While no one could question the talent pool available in the country, but it has often raised suspicion of whether they have been given special treatment by the ICC.
Afghanistan’s (MEN) first-ever series win against Pakistan recently has given just a section of the community to rejoice while on the flipside, it brings into attention the lack of opportunities for the other faction.
With the men’s team taking giant strides in the cricketing circles, be it performing for their national team or for T20 franchises across the world, a bone of contention is the fact that they have no set-up for the women cricketers. With Taliban taking over the country and banning girls from playing sport or receiving education, it is yet another setback for a country who hoped cricket or for that matter sport would be an escape from the atrocities they face on a daily basis.
With basic human rights for women and girls denied, more so, since Taliban’s takeover in 2021, Australia pulled out of the tour of the UAE, where they were to play white-ball matches against Afghanistan.
"This decision follows the recent announcement by the Taliban of further restrictions on women’s and girls’ education and employment opportunities and their ability to access parks and gyms," CA said in a release.
"CA is committed to supporting growing the game for women and men around the world, including in Afghanistan, and will continue to engage with the Afghanistan Cricket Board in anticipation of improved conditions for women and girls in the country."
It did not go down well with popular Afghanistan cricketers like Rashid Khan and Naveen-ul-Haq, who threatened to pull out of Australia’s T20 tournament – the Big Bash League (BBL).
As a result, Pakistan agreed to play three T20Is in Sharjah on a revenue-sharing model. It proved to be a historic series as Afghanistan would not just go on to win their first-ever international game against their neighbours, but to add icing on the cake, they have also clinched the series, albeit against a second-string Pakistan side.
What a momentous occasion for Afghanistan cricket! 🙌😍— Afghanistan Cricket Board (@ACBofficials) March 26, 2023
AfghanAtalan have created history by securing their first-ever T20I series win over traditional rivals Pakistan. It's a triumph of grit, courage, and teamwork. pic.twitter.com/nQ7jjqmm14
While it is certainly a momentous occasion for the country, it cannot mask the atrocities their people, especially the women back home face on a regular basis. Would the women not want to bring glory to the country? Imagine if a country like India thought on similar lines? We would have never seen the likes of Mithalis, Harmanpreets, Sainas and Sanias fill the nation with pride and as a result, we would have missed out on many historic achievements.
The Taliban are believed to be a fan of cricket and have not gone out of their way to discourage the sport in the country. “Taliban loves cricket. They have supported us since the beginning. They did not interfere in our activities. I don't see any interference and expect support so that our cricket can move forward,” Afghanistan Cricket Board CEO Hamid Shinwari told PTI in September 2021 – a month after the Taliban tookover.
There is a catch. Shinwari, according to BBC, had also expressed that he does not expect women to be allowed to play cricket which is a direct violation of ICC’s full membership.
There are other red flags too: The Afghanistan women’s team have not played in a single World Cup, there is no pathway for women’s cricket in the country, there isn’t a pool of women players across age-groups and do they even have ICC accredited venues – all of which are must-haves in order to get a full-member status.
In the ICC board meeting last week, ACB argued their case by stating that the issue of women cricket in the country was beyond their control and they shouldn’t be punished for the same. It is believed that Afghanistan’s full-member status will not be revoked but a clearer policy on the way forward could be made.
Bottom line: The injustice will continue!