Taliban have ‘no issue’ with cricket, Pakistan series on track: Afghan Cricket Board
Statesman Report
ISLAMABAD: The Afghanistan Cricket Board has said a one-day series against Pakistan will go ahead in Sri Lanka next month, allaying fears that the Taliban will interfere with the Afghan men’s national cricket team, the country’s biggest sporting success in recent years. During their previous spell in power, the hard-line Taliban movement banned most public entertainment but did not have a particular problem with cricket, a sport that many Afghans learned to play at refugee camps in Pakistan during the 1980s and 1990s. The Afghanistan Cricket Federation, now the Afghanistan Cricket Board, was formed in 1997 while the Taliban were ruling, and was inducted into the Asian Cricket Council not long after. Since then, the game has exploded in popularity in Afghanistan, with players such as spin bowler Rashid Khan or big hitting batsman Mohammad Nabi becoming global stars, lighting up Twenty20 internationals and other showpiece competitions like the Indian Premier League (IPL). “The Taliban don’t have any issue or problem with cricket, and they have told us that we can continue our work as planned,” Afghanistan Cricket Board head of media operations, Hikmat Hassan, told Reuters on Thursday, adding that the team was ready for three one-day matches against Pakistan from September 3. All three games will be played in Hambantota, ESPNcricinfo reported. “Cricket is doing very well,” ACB CEO Hamid 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.” “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,” Shinwari added. “Cricket has become an important tool for community development in the country. And the players in particular are icons, and understand the importance.” Afghanistan’s own domestic version of the IPL, the “Shpageeza Cricket League” (SCL), a competition named after the Pashto language word for a six, added two more franchises on Thursday and will be played between Sept. 10-25, the board said. “Given the current problems in Afghanistan, it is an opportunity to bring the country together, bring some joy to the people and put on a remarkable spectacle,” Hassan said. He said the board hoped that stars like Rashid Khan, one of the world’s top rated Twenty20 bowlers, would come home to play in the competition, just ahead of the World Cup.