DNA Exclusive: Can cricket diplomacy tame Taliban regime in Afghanistan?


New Delhi: The Taliban have banned Afghan women from participating in sports as the sporting activities would ‘expose their bodies’. Ahmadullah Wasik, deputy head of Afghanistan’s Department of Culture, stated that according to Islam, it is mandatory for women to cover their head, face and body.

Zee News Editor-in-Chief Sudhir Chaudhary on Friday (September 10) discussed if cricket diplomacy can tame the Taliban regime in Afghanistan or not.

After the Taliban’s decision, the Australian Cricket Board has refused to play with the Afghanistan men’s cricket team. The Afghanistan men’s cricket team was scheduled to tour Australia for a Test match series this year. But now this tour is likely to be cancelled as Australia have said that they cannot play cricket with Afghanistan until women are allowed to play there. 

Now, it is the turn of all the cricket playing nations including India to boycott Afghanistan. The decision to boycott Afghanistan should also have been taken by the International Cricket Council (ICC), which has so far, not said anything on the issue.

This is to be noted that the ICC has not taken a stand at a time when only three players of the Afghanistan women’s cricket team have managed to escape to Canada, while the rest of them are still in Afghanistan and the Taliban can also punish them for playing cricket.

According to the rules of the ICC, if a country does not have its women’s cricket team, then that country is not considered ICC’s full-time member. The rules also state that a country will only be considered a permanent member of the ICC when its women’s cricket team has participated at least once in the ICC World Cup or a T20 World Cup in the last four years. 

It is worth noting that when ICC had made Afghanistan its full-time member in 2017, there was no Afghan women’s cricket team at that time. However, the ICC had given the Afghanistan Cricket Board a place in its list of permanent countries. Even this time, the ICC may take the Afghanistan crisis as an exception and may not impose any restrictions on the Afghanistan Cricket Board. The reason behind this could also be the upcoming men’s T20 World Cup which is going to commence on October 17. 

The game of cricket is played in only 12 countries, but the people who watch cricket are in 190 countries across the world. Because of this power, cricket has proved to be a great tool of protest on multiple occasions. For example, India has repeatedly refused to play cricket with Pakistan on the issue of terrorism. The last bilateral series between the two countries had taken place almost 8 years ago in 2012-2013. This is despite the popularity of the matches between the two arch-rivals. The most-watched match in the 2019 Cricket World Cup was between India and Pakistan as it was seen by about 33 crore people on different mediums in the world. In terms of profit, this match was a super hit for the cricket boards of India and Pakistan along with the ICC. However, keeping the profit aside, India has refused to play a cricket series with Pakistan. 

Today, if ICC wants, it can learn from India and ban the Afghanistan Cricket Board.

Apart from this, the ICC can also put a ban on Afghanistan the way it had banned South Africa’s cricket team from 1970 to 1991. In 1968, the then Prime Minister of South Africa had stopped the England cricket team from visiting his country because a player in the England team was black. At that time apartheid was at its peak in South Africa and black players were not taken in the team. After this incident, all the major cricket boards had boycotted South Africa and the boycott remained there until Nelson Mandela was released from jail in the year 1990.

That’s why the ICC should ban the Afghanistan Cricket Board the way it had banned South Africa.

Today, when several prominent countries and their leaders do not want to compete with the Taliban in Afghanistan, the cricket boards around the world should also initiate it by boycotting Afghanistan.

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