The governing body of cricket must decide whether Afghanistan can continue as a full member of the Taliban regime.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) has set up a working group to determine the future of the game in Afghanistan under the Taliban government, amid uncertainty over a possible ban on the sport.
Afghanistan’s sharp rise in cricket in recent years has been unparalleled, but the country now risks international isolation following the Taliban’s takeover in August. On Wednesday, the world governing body published the announcement of the working group.
Cricket Australia postponed a one-off test for men against Afghanistan in Hobart, which was scheduled for this month, due to uncertainty as to whether the group would allow women to play.
ICC Chairman Greg Barclay said in a statement that “the ICC Board is committed to continuing to support Afghanistan Cricket to develop both men’s and women’s cricket going forward.”
“We believe that the most effective way for this to happen will be to support our member in its efforts to achieve this through its relationship with the new government,” Barclay said.
The ICC had taken a wait-and-see approach to whether Afghanistan can continue as a full member, allowing it to play test matches.
Taliban officials have said they will not repeat the harsh rule of the former Taliban government, but their return has revived memories of the group’s first government power from 1996 to 2001, when it imposed its harsh interpretation of Islamic law.
Most forms of entertainment were banned – including many sports – and stadiums were doubled as public execution sites.
Sports that the Taliban allowed were strictly controlled and were for men only to play and watch.
“Cricket is fortunate to be able to influence positive change in Afghanistan with the national team a source of great pride and unity in a country with a young population that has experienced more upheavals and changes than most,” Barclay added.
“We should protect that status and continue to try to influence change through the ACB [Australian Cricket Board] but will continue to closely monitor the situation and make any decisions accordingly. “
Cricket was barely known in the country until the early 2000s, and its explosive rise in popularity was associated with conflict – the sport was picked up in Pakistan by Afghan refugees, who then took it home.
But the national team has made remarkable progress on the international stage since then, achieving the coveted test status in 2017 and is now ranked among the top 10 sites in the world in the one-day and 2020 formats.
For the past 20 years, it has also emerged as a powerful symbol of national unity in a country divided by civil war and American occupation. The U.S. forces finally withdrew from the country in August, ending its longest war.
Afghan cricketers marked it by tweeting photos and emojis of the tricolor national flag that the Taliban have replaced with their white banner.