Afghanistan’s Cricket: Is The End Nigh?

As the Taliban begins to write a new story for Afghanistan and its people, there have been obvious questions about the future of Afghanistan’s cricket. As the world builds up to the Twenty-Twenty World Cup in October, this may very well be the end of cricket in Afghanistan.

On September 8th, Cricket Australia released a statement saying it would cancel the one-off test against Afghanistan if the Taliban doesn’t change its stance on women’s cricket.

“If recent media reports that women’s cricket will not be supported in Afghanistan are substantiated, Cricket Australia would have no alternative but to not host Afghanistan for the proposed Test Match due to be played in Hobart. “

The Taliban, who came back to power in Afghanistan after 20 years, has banned all sports except cricket. Men’s cricket. They have categorically denied the possibility of women’s cricket in Afghanistan for reasons we all know.

Since then, the members of the women’s team are believed to have fled the country fearing danger. As per reports, the women’s team coach Diana Barakzai and several other players have left Afghanistan claiming no support from either Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) or the International Cricket Council (ICC). But, the former chairman of ACB, Hamid Shinwari had denied these reports. Days later, the Taliban sacked Shinwari and replaced him with Naseeb Khan.

Reacting to the developments, Australia’s Test captain Tim Paine said in a podcast,

“I imagine it will be impossible if teams are pulling out against playing against them and governments are not letting them travel to our shores, then how a team like that can be allowed to play in an ICC-sanctioned event is going to be very, very hard to see.”

The inception of modern-day cricket in Afghanistan began in the refugee camps of Peshwar in Pakistan. People who had fled the war in the 1990s had sought refuge in Pakistan. The majority of the current Afghan players started their tryst with cricket in those camps. They played with makeshift equipment and without any protective gear. The most prolific spinner in the T20 format today, Rashid Khan, also came from that refugee camp.

The newly appointed Afghanistan T20 captain, Mohammed Nabi had revealed that playing test cricket is one of the two ambitions of Afghanistan cricket. In 2019, that was achieved when they played a test match against India in India. The other ambition, he revealed, is to play at home. He added,

“I don’t know when we can feel that support and love… You know the uncertainty of our lives.”

It still remains unfulfilled.

With the Taliban coming back to power, the chances of playing international cricket in Afghanistan look extremely remote. The dream looks dead for the foreseeable future.

Does Afghanistan cricket deserve another chance? Can Afghanistan cricket be saved?

There have been several instances where a cricket board has struggled to keep cricket going in their country. Zimbabwe, for example, has been struggling to pay their players which forced many to quit international cricket. Pakistan’s mission to bring the game back to home soil is still an ongoing battle. There have been similar financial differences between the Caribbean players and their board.

In most of these cases, cricket boards from other countries and the ICC have stepped forward to help. The help includes financial aid, frequent tours, and, of course, ICC donations.

While Afghanistan has a puddle of problems, there will not be similar favours given. The Afghanistan problem is not a cricketing problem but a political one; therefore there is little chance of redemption.

While the Taliban are at the helm, no assistance will be forthcoming. The Afghan players will also find it physically dangerous to anger the Taliban. Neither do we know if the players would want to continue given the stance on the women’s game.

The future doesn’t look bright. It would be a devastating end for the Afghan story. It has been a fairy tale: starting in refugee camps of a foreign nation to a stage where they competed well in T20 cricket. Then there are, of course, the Afghan players’ sacrifices. They have relentlessly built this legacy. If ICC bans Afghanistan, all their work will be undone.

We, the cricketing community, can only hope for a solution. But as things stand it’s hard to know where or how to find one.

Akarsh HP


  • We live in reflex culture where we ban what we don’t like, so there’s little hope.
    Don’t see any reason why Afghanistan shouldn’t be retained as part of the ICC playing matches abroad.
    Would be good if the counties could offer a berth or two to their better players, or even league sides as their pro. During the last World Cup they certainly showed they can be competitive at the top level. They’re not going to improve without challenges.

    • Mind you, we always have lived in that kind of culture. Certain drugs are banned, having consensual sex with 15-year-olds is banned, talking loudly in libraries is banned, driving at 100 mph on an empty motorway is banned…..:-)

      • you have to have laws in any society and that involves making things illegal. It’s the knee jerk banning that bothers me, the flavour of the month stuff. Anyone can drive at 100mph on the motorways, you just get penalised if caught, but few would argue it’s a knee jerk. Similarly with certain drugs and underage sex, talk to any parent. Even before these were banned they were always looked down on as undesirable by society in general and laws of any society should ldealy reflect adult public opinion.

      • A reaction to a ban on half your population participating or watching sport, by an organisation part of whose mission is to make their sport accessible to everybody, is “flavour of the month”?! I would hope that such a basic expression of humanity–and support for cricket–would be the flavour of EVERY month!

        Are you sure that your own knee isn’t jerking considerably more than anyone at the ICC’s, in an attempt to see banning cultures and flavours of the month everywhere?

        • We live in Woke times. But this won’t go on forever, there’s already a considerable backlash against this over the top reaction to appease trendies.

        • Ah, the “life was so much better when everyone could be as racist and misogynistic as they wanted and people like me were the centre of the universe” argument!

          Do you have a coherent point about the subject matter or did you just want to have an unfocused, name-calling rant?!

  • CA really feel they are in a position to get on a high horse about governments and human rights’ violations? Have they seen their own government?

    They never wanted to play this Test and were glad for an excuse to cancel it. That they also took the opportunity for some moral posturing is pretty sickening but hardly surprising.

    • Yeah, human rights infringements inflicted BY the Australian government perpetuates them are a-okay. Can’t recall if any cricketer said anything about those. Maybe some cricketers with Aboriginal roots have, when the Australian government decided that ethnic cleansing is maybe not the best PR they can send out to the world.

      Or the English (the files on the concentration camps in Kenya in the 1950s being a part of officially erased history by the United Kingdom, as per current government policy), or the South African (the rest of the world stepped in to do that), or the Pakistani (Bangladeshi independence war) or …, Sri Lanka with their civil war that lasted quite some time etc. Modi’s mobs have not stopped anyone from touring India either. Honestly, it is really not that hard to find such reasons to not tour just about every cricket playing nation.

      Funnily enough, I also don’t recall many examples of teams refusing to tour on those grounds (even in the case of apartheid, the government of the day really did not struggle to get future MCC Presidents and other future dignitaries to come and visit). Of course some of those cases are before my time. But general point stands.

      So, call me cynical, and think of it as nothing more than an excuse – Afghani cricket is not that economically interesting for the rest of the cricket playing world. And the money not spent on Afghani cricket, guess who get to trouser that?

      As for the Afghani cricketers, the future does look really bleak. Which is really sad.

      • Well you can find reasons not to do anything, but life goes on often in ways we don’t like. I’m very sorry for the Afgan people, but I don’t put cricket anywhere near the list of problems for this war shattered country.
        As for International Cricket, well it’s got heaps of problems that need serious sorting out. One thing though, you can’t keep cancelling tours in the chance of rescheduling them later, there is no room in the bloated white ball schedule to fit anything in. It’s alright for England to kick Pakistan in the face because they don’t fancy a 4 Day Tour in luxury hotels, yes 4 days, but they were more than happy to have them here in the middle of a pandemic, in lockdown and before vaccines. And people are calling Tim Paine arrogant! It beggars belief.

        • I work with Afghan refugees who have resettled in this country and actually they have mentioned cricket as something which is, indeed, important to them. They say it represents the continuity of something which has been a hallmark of how their country has progressed in the last 20 years or so.


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