The three-match series is due to begin from September 3 in Hambantota
Afghanistan’s series with Pakistan is set to go ahead as scheduled, despite the surrounding uncertainty following the Taliban’s takeover of the country. The three-match ODI series will take place in Sri Lanka, a venue decided before political events in recent days saw the Taliban take charge following the withdrawal of western forces and the collapse of the elected government.
All three games will be played in Hambantota. The series is due to begin from September 3, but will involve a three-day quarantine period on arrival for both sides.
That commitment, as well as an Under-19 tour to Bangladesh later in September, have been the focus of immediate concern though ACB CEO Hamid Shinwari said both tours were on, pending logistical issues around the departure of the side. Kabul airport has been the focus of international attention, as many Afghans attempt to leave the country.
“Cricket is doing very well,” Shinwari told ESPNcricinfo. “We are going to the office (ACB). The cricket team is preparing for the Pakistan series in Sri Lanka. It is confirmed. We are committed to sending a team to Sri Lanka as soon as possible. There is transition going on here in Afghanistan hence there is a vacuum in flight operations and availability is affected. But we will fly out as soon as we find a flight. We have our boys assembled in Kabul and they are preparing for the series.
“We hope the squad will depart in the next four days. We have updated both the PCB and Sri Lanka Cricket and both are on board. I am thankful to SLC for hosting us and that is really generous of them.”
There remain longer-term questions around the Taliban’s approach to the development of the game in the country. It is worth noting that the Afghanistan Cricket Federation (as the Afghanistan Cricket Board was then known) was formed in 1997, during the Taliban’s first stint in rule and they were inducted into the Asian Cricket Council not long after.
The game was at a different stage then to where it is now in the country and in much better health. The ICC is monitoring the situation as of now, with a little concern, but will provide support when and if needed on practical matters of playing cricket.
Shinwari was confident the game would not be affected adversely. “They [Taliban] are supporting cricket ever since the beginning,” he said. “They never had any issue with cricket. The thing is people love cricket here in Afghanistan and that’s why it has to go with the flow. My confidence that cricket will not be affected is because of two factors: firstly, the legacy. Cricket development in Afghanistan was initiated during Taliban’s first stint 20 years ago. Secondly ACB offices are operating. So far we have seen no issues.
“The cricketers are doing very well. They have been assured and they are also happy that cricket will be going on. They are committed to going to Sri Lanka, playing against Pakistan, and after that to the T20 World Cup. Cricket has become an important tool for community development in the country. And the players in particular are icons, and understand the importance.”
Even then, ACB officials recognised the social, political and cultural difficulties in starting a women’s team in the country and that may become an even more distant prospect now.
“My assumption is women’s cricket could be stopped,” Shinwari said. “But to be honest, I really don’t know the new policies of the government. That assumption was based on the previous stint of the Taliban.”
Additional reporting by Umar Farooq Kalson
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo
Leave a Reply