Afghanistan Cricket Board CEO Hamid Shinwari has said in an official statement that the board is powerless to change the culture and religious environment in Afghanistan. The statement comes in reaction to Cricket Australia considering scrapping the one-off Test between the two sides in November.
Cricket Australia, on Thursday, had stated that they would consider scrapping the one-off Test match against Afghanistan, scheduled to be played from November 27 in Hobart, owing to Taliban's opposition to women's cricket. CA has been firm on its “Sport For All” stance.
Earlier on Friday, Australia Test captain Tim Paine, too, aligned with CA's stance, and suggested that Afghanistan's participation in the upcoming T20 World Cup in the UAE and Oman could be in danger.
Hamid Shinwari, the Afghanistan Cricket Board CEO, stated that if the other international boards follow the suit, the nation might get alienated in the cricket fraternity.
The official statement read as follows:
Keep the Door Open for Us! Walk with us!
It was with shock and immense disappointment that the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) received the sudden and unexpected news from Cricket Australia of the potential cancellation of the Australia-Afghanistan Cricket Test Match scheduled for 27 November 2021. We believe there is an alternative to cancelling this significant, history making, test match.
We accept that Cricket Australia (CA) sees cricket as 'a sport for all and we support the game unequivocally for women at every level'. We understand, too, why 'if recent media reports that women's cricket will not be supported in Afghanistan are substantiated', CA might believe they have 'no alternative' but to refuse to host the scheduled test match.
We believe, however, that there is an alternative.
Our country has experienced 40 years of war and violence since Russia invaded Afghanistan in 1979. This has included numerous changes in the governance of our country and approaches to both our traditional cultures and our Islamic faith. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as of August 2021 is our new government and has appointed an interim cabinet. The whole country is in flux and transition while the new government sets it policies and priorities.
The development of women's cricket has been slow in Afghanistan, just as it was for other more traditional cultures: India in the 1970s; in Pakistan in the 1990s when women's cricket was at first declared illegal and players had death threats; in Sri Lanka in the late 1990s; and in Bangladesh not until the early 2000s.
Nonetheless, there has been a quiet but significant development of women's cricket over the past 10 years in girls-only schools where cricket is an integral part of the health education process.
Since the ACB joined the International Cricket Council (ICC) and through our fast growth through affiliate, associate and to full membership, the ICC has been aware of our cultural and religious environment. It has taken a balanced, diplomatic, sensitive and considerate approach as we have worked to develop every aspect of the game of cricket in our country despite the situations we have faced.
We believe that the ICC has had the forethought to recognise and accept that we have been doing all we can to grow cricket in the traditional cultural, religious and changing political environments of our country
The alternative to cancellation of the test match would be for CA to take the same approach as the ICC. A considered, balanced, 'cricket diplomacy' would be far more productive for Afghanistan and for cricket than a sudden 'knee jerk' reaction.
CA need to know that the comments of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan spokesperson regarding women's participation in cricket are not substantially different to the ACB's cultural and religious environment during the Karzai and Ghani governments over the last 20 years. We believe that the ICC is fully aware of this, although it seems CA is not.
The ACB is powerless to change the culture and religious environment of Afghanistan. If the CA decides to cancel the test match and isolate the Afghan men's national team, it will have no impact upon those cultural and religious values as they stand. The spokesman for the government has unequivocally stated this.
We are concerned that, if other countries' cricket administrators follow CA, then Afghan cricket will be alienated from the cricket world, the development of cricket in our country will be stalled and, even more concerning, cricket may cease to exist in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan's population, estimated to be almost 40 million people, is one of the fastest growing young populations in the world - with approximately 63 percent of the population (27.5 million people) below 25 years of age. These young people see the national cricket team as heroes. The national players unite our country and build peace and pride.
It is these millions of young people who will be most impacted by the cancellation of the test match and its potential consequences.
Agreeing to host the test match would be a treasured gift to the people Afghanistan by Cricket Australia. It will build relationships rather than close minds.
We ask Cricket Australia and the whole cricketing world to keep the door open for us, walk with us, do not isolate us and avoid penalising us for our cultural and religious environment.
Insha'Allah, God willing, all will be well.
Hamid Shinwari, CEO, Afghanistan Cricket Board