Afghanistan cricket chief calls on ECB to host their home fixtures in England

·7-min read
Rashid Khan. - GETTY IMAGES
Rashid Khan. - GETTY IMAGES

Afghanistan cricket chiefs have called on the England & Wales Cricket Board to support their development of the sport in the country by holding matches on English grounds.

The Afghanistan Cricket Board chief executive, Hamid Shinwari, hopes to visit the UK next year when travel is normalised and sign a memorandum of understanding with the ECB to play matches, against neutral opponents, in this country where there is a large Afghan community.

Afghanistan use Sharjah as a home ground and this will continue but they see help from England as vital to the sport’s growth. However, the ECB’s support will almost certainly only be forthcoming if there is a commitment by the ACB and the Taliban government to women’s cricket. Even then, guidance from the UK government would be needed. For example, England have not played a bi-lateral series with Zimbabwe since 2004 due to the political relations between the two countries.

England have only played Afghanistan twice, both in World Cups, and there are no plans for further games. “We plan on visiting the UK next year and hopefully sign an MOU with Afghanistan to play regular series with an international team (in England). This would give us a big boost and support the youth of Afghanistan," said Shinwari.

There is still doubt over whether Afghanistan’s Test match in Hobart will take place in November and the International Cricket Council is considering a ban on Afghanistan unless there is clarity about the future of women’s cricket.

“Our women players are still here - they have not left Afghanistan, most are in Kabul or the other provinces. We want to build girls cricket, we are committed to building facilities,so they can play as long as our cultural requirements are met,” said Shinwari.

England’s tour to Pakistan is expected to be called off on Saturday after an ECB emergency board meeting. New Zealand flew out of Pakistan on Friday after the abrupt abandonment of their tour due to security threats against the team.

England men and women are due to arrive in Pakistan on Oct 11 for a series of white ball matches.

New Zealand have declined to share the information about the specific security threat with Pakistan but one of its government officials confirmed it was worried about am attack on the team as it travelled from the hotel to the ground in Rawalpindi.


Afghan cricket chief has hardest job in world cricket

By Nick Hoult

There cannot be a harder job in world cricket right now than running the Afghanistan Cricket Board in Kabul.

The armed guards who were sent by the Taliban to protect the ACB offices in the early days of their takeover have been stood down as the city becomes calmer but those trying to keep cricket going in Afghanistan are being pulled by two very powerful forces.

International opinion was laregely summed up this week when Afghanistan was accused of “gender apartheid” by seven UN human rights experts for not allowing females to play cricket for their country. The Test match in Hobart with Australia at the end of November - the first by Afghanistan against a ‘western’ country - hangs in the balance with Cricket Australia under increasing pressure to call it off.

Closer to home for Hamid Shinwari, the chief executive of the ACB, is navigating the new government in Kabul, trying to continue building a “supportive” working relationship with the Taliban to keep Afghan cricket moving forward while combating the complex shifting cultural policies of the country’s new rulers that will affect women’s cricket and have a bearing on the country’s future at the ICC table.

Shinwari, educated in Australia and in his third stint working for the ACB, spoke to me from Kabul at the end of last week. He says the national team are at their training camp in Jalalabad preparing for the Twenty20 World Cup - for which they were one of eight automatic qualifiers - and under-16s cricket has restarted as well. He was hopeful of girls cricket being played again at school level soon. But since we spoke the Taliban has announced the reopening of secondary schools but for boys only. The ACB’s Twenty20 league had to be postponed because banks are not open so it is impossible to fund the teams and pay the players and then there is the constant worry of being shunned by the cricketing world and losing vital ICC funding as geopolitical issues play out above the heads of the ACB.

Afghanistan's national cricket team players attend a training session at the Kabul International Cricket Ground in Kabul, ahead of their one-day series against Pakistan, scheduled to take place in Sri Lanka in two weeks. - GETTY IMAGES
Afghanistan's national cricket team players attend a training session at the Kabul International Cricket Ground in Kabul, ahead of their one-day series against Pakistan, scheduled to take place in Sri Lanka in two weeks. - GETTY IMAGES

“There were comments made about women not playing cricket but they have since been clarified,” says Shinwari. “Our women players are still here - they have not left Afghanistan, most are in Kabul or the other provinces. We want to build girls cricket, we are committed to building facilities,so they can play as long as our cultural requirements are met.”

What are they? “The girls will play with permission of their guardians, for example.”

Shinwari is hopeful the Taliban will leave him in charge and allow his staff to continue to run Afghani cricket. He says there has been little interference so far and was grateful for the protection at the start of the takeover with the ACB office, one of the few to stay open in the city during those turbulent early days.

“I hope they treat us as an international agency, a little like an NGO, because we are pretty much solely funded by the ICC,” he says. “The government will appoint the chairman but apart from that we hope to be able to run the game. We have spent years working on Afghan cricket, we know the problems, we know the issues and how to make things work. We have made a lot of progress. The country has a lot of financial and economic problems and cricket offers a way out for young people to improve their lives and we can help with that. So far the new regime has not stopped us from doing any of our work and they know how important cricket is to the development of the country.”

Just before the Taliban takeover in August, the ACB added two more franchises to its Shpageeza Cricket League Twenty20 competition but for the tournament to start, normal life has to resume first.

“The banks are closed so funding for the teams is difficult,” says Shinwari. “Once the banks reopen it will help hugely but we have had to delay it.”

He has called for international help from the United Nations to try and ensure Afghanistan is not isolated and ICC funding, worth around $40m from 2016 to 2023, lost. “We want the UN to jump in and to point out what work we do for the youth of Afghanistan. We call on the UN to put pressure on to make sure other countries play us because cricket offers hope for the youth of Afghanistan. It helps with their lives. So far the new government have not stopped us doing any of our work. There are offices that are still closed but not the cricket offices. Directly, and indirectly, they have supported the cricket board.”

A red line for the ICC would be Afghanistan playing at the Twenty20 World Cup next month - where they are in the same group as India, Pakistan and New Zealand - under the Taliban flag. It would almost certainly lead to an international boycott. Shinwari says there has been no ruling from the government on that and the team will currently play with the Afghan flag as before on their shirts. “We are waiting for the government response in this regard, but at the moment the old flag will be used.”

Shinwari will speak to Cricket Australia and government ministers in Tasmania as Afghanistan hangs on to the hope of playing the Test match in Hobart, which would only be their seventh Test and first since June 2018 when they lost by an innings to India. Tuba Sangar, who until recently was women’s cricket development officer in Afghanistan before going into hiding and leaving the country for Canada, this week told the BBC the match should go ahead saying to cancel it would “destroy the hope of the Afghanistan people."

Australia want to be seen to do the right thing but what is the right thing? If Australia cancel the Test match it will set a precedent, and cancelling cricket matches has become too much of a habit recently. “I will speak to the minister in Tasmania and say to him please think about the youth of Afghanistan,” says Shinwari. “Consider the humanitarian crisis in the country. This could be something that brings hope.”

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting