Afghanistan committed to playing in T20 World Cup: ACB

Afghanistan’s team will soon leave Kabul for Pakistan one-day series, says Mohammad Farid Hotak

Amid the growing uncertainties in Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover of the country, the country’s cricket board says it is still on track to send the national team to Sri Lanka for next month’s bilateral one-day series against Pakistan.

And the Rashid Khan-led team will also be a part of the ICC T20 World Cup (October 17-November 14) in UAE.

The Afghanistan Cricket Board has remained defiant that the game will not suffer in the aftermath of the Taliban’s ascendency.

Amid the chaotic scenes emerging from different parts of the country, the cricket board on Thursday even announced the introduction of two new franchises in the Shpageeza Cricket League, their premier domestic T20 tournament.

“The eighth edition of Shpageeza Cricket League is scheduled to be commenced from September 10th at Kabul Cricket Stadium and will conclude on 25th of the same month,” the cricket board said on their official website on Thursday.

The cricket board is already planning for the team’s departure from Kabul for their one-day series against Pakistan in Sri Lanka.

Mohammad Farid Hotak, the spokesman of the Afghanistan Cricket Board, said they are prepared for the Pakistan series.

“Afghanistan vs Pakistan ODI matches are going to happen. ACB is fully prepared, we are waiting for the flights to resume. Within three to four days, we are departing to Sri Lanka,” Hotak told Khaleej Times on Thursday.

Sounding optimistic about the team’s participation in future events, Hotak said the cricket board would honour their international and domestic commitments.

“We are committed to participating in the T20 World Cup. We have also planned the 8th edition of Shpageeza Cricket League for next month,” he said.

Hotak’s statement would go a long way in putting the doubts over the fate of Afghanistan’s cricket team to bed.

Of course, the fate of a cricket team cannot be of grave concern at a time when the world is desperate to know if women and children are going to be safe in the country after the Taliban returned to Kabul.

But the health of its cricket team might just well allow us to gauge which way Afghanistan’s fortunes could turn in the near future.

After all, it’s their cricket team that gave the country a new identity on the international stage.

Rashid Khan, 22, is now the most feared leg-spinner in white-ball formats – an incredible achievement for a player who first learned to bowl on the dustbowls of Peshawar after his family had fled to Pakistan during the Afghan War.

It was amid the gunshots of a war that Afghanistan managed to gain a foothold in cricket and build an impressive team.

For a team that made their full international debut only 12 years ago, Afghanistan went on to take a giant stride, producing world-class players like Rashid, Mujeeb-ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi and even attaining the Test status.

But their greatest achievement has been their success of getting a direct entry into the Super 12 stage of the 2021 ICC T20 World Cup as one of the top eight ranked sides, pushing teams like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh into the preliminary round of the tournament.

Having spent eight years with the Afghan team from 2010 to 2018 as a batting coach, Umesh Patwal says the key to Afghanistan’s success in cricket was its top infrastructure in domestic cricket and the passion the young kids have for the game.

“They have built superb infrastructure and their domestic structure is very good. And the passion for the game is quite incredible. That’s why you see so many good young players and that’s why they have become a Test-playing country,” Patwal told Khaleej Times over the phone from Dehradun.

Now even after the Taliban’s return, Patwal believes cricket will continue to grow.

“I have a very good experience of working with the team. I have been there a few times. I have been told that even the Taliban always loved and supported cricket. I think absolutely they are going to support cricket now,” he said.

Patwal nevertheless was worried and even sent messages to a couple of Afghan players after the Taliban stormed into Kabul.

“I spoke to Samiullah Shinwari and Hazratullah Zazai. Both of them are in Kabul. They are safe and their families are safe as well,” said Patwal.

So will the game of cricket be able to bridge the gap in a country grappling with the latest turmoil in its conflict-ridden history?

The rest of the world will wait for an answer with the same anxiety and nervousness batsmen across the world feel when Rashid Khan makes the ball drift and turn viciously.


Rituraj Borkakoty

A big fan of the Argentina national football team, Rituraj generally writes on sports. But he deeply cherishes the time he spent with his favourite musician from Assam, India, for an interview. And he loves to bring human interest stories to Khaleej Times readers.

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