Lack of progress in women’s cricket in Afghanistan a concern: ICC chief

Photo: ACB

The Taliban’s continued lack of commitment to women’s cricket has become a concern for the ICC and the matter will be raised at its next board meeting in March, the International Cricket Council’s CEO Geoff Allardice said.

Since coming into power in August 2021, the Taliban have failed to comply with the ICC’s constitution, which includes supporting the development of women’s cricket. As things stand, Afghanistan is the only Full Member to have received that status without having an operational women’s team in place.

Last year, the ICC formed a working group to review cricket in the country following the Taliban’s takeover and the group, led by the ICC deputy chair Imran Khwaja, met with the Taliban and cricket officials in November last year, including the Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen.

According to the report, the Taliban reiterated its commitment to comply with the ICC constitution, including agreeing in principle to support the development of women’s cricket. However, last year, the group banned women from playing sports.

In the months that followed further restrictions were imposed, which have all but erased women from society.

According to the ICC’s CEO Geoff Allardice, prospects have become bleaker recently, after the Taliban regime ordered an indefinite ban on university education for girls.

“Obviously, the recent developments [banning higher education for girls] in Afghanistan are concerning,” Allardice said during a virtual press conference.

“Our board has been monitoring progress since the change of regime. It is a concern that progress is not being made in Afghanistan and it’s something our board will consider at its next meeting in March. As far as we are aware, there isn’t activity at the moment.”

Since the Taliban took over, many women have fled – or sought to leave – the country. A number of women were working in the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) headquarters in Kabul, but are no longer coming into the office. Several have reportedly gone overseas.

In an interview with ESPNcricinfo, Asad Ullah, the former director of ACB, said: “Women’s cricket in Afghanistan has always been a burning issue and I don’t see there is a solution right now.”

“There will be a cultural challenge and we hardly have a pool of players in the country. In fact, there has never been a women’s team even before the Taliban came into power. There were a handful of girls playing cricket within their home as a recreational activity. It never made it onto the field because there was no real intent or platform,” he said.

“There hasn’t been any interest at all. Definitely, they can play, if they want to, but in Afghanistan, it was not an option for girls. There is a big number of girls who left the country thinking that they won’t have the freedom to play sports. But are they playing sports in Australia or elsewhere? I don’t think so. They left for a better future which is their right but cricket among girls in Afghanistan hasn’t been popular anyway and it hasn’t been encouraged either.

“ICC should understand the dynamics in the country and it’s not something they can enforce and government can implement at once. It takes time. Every country operates within their own law. There are certain things that aren’t open as in western society,” he said.