Afghanistan’s status as a full member of the ICC is unlikely to be affected

Despite the bleak prospects for the formation of an Afghan women’s team as long as the Taliban remain in power, Afghanistan’s status as a full member of the ICC is unlikely to be affected.

The matter will be discussed at the next ICC board meetings in Dubai in March, when the ICC Working Group on Afghanistan will provide an update on progress in the country. ESPNcricinfo understands that the group, led by ICC Deputy Chairman Imran Khwaja, will push for non-punishment of Afghanistan’s status and shed more light on the difficulties the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) faces in order to developing women’s play.

Khwaja has met with ACB officials and government representatives in Doha twice in recent months to get a clearer picture of the wider situation for cricket since the Taliban took over, as well as how to help women take up cricket. to play. Those meetings would have been “productive,” according to an official who was present.

At its second meeting, in February, the ACB assured the ICC Working Group that the board continues to support women’s cricket, but the political reality meant that an overt push for it could still be dangerous for those involved.

“Afghanistan is a delicate situation,” Ross McCollum, an ICC board member (Ireland) and member of the working group, told ESPNcricinfo. “The guys at ACB want to see things happen with women’s cricket. But it’s not up to them, it’s up to the people in charge.

“Forcing women to play cricket can have serious consequences. We have to proceed with caution, it will be a slow process.

In December, the Taliban banned secondary and higher education for women across the country, the latest expression of their repressive policies against women. However, the ICC working group was told that there are differences of opinion within the Taliban regarding the role of women in society and that exemptions exist allowing women to work in the medical field. That hasn’t happened in any sport yet.

Even before the Taliban takeover, little progress had been made in women’s cricket in the country. In October 2020, the ACB had held a trial camp for the national team and announced its intention to award 25 women’s central contracts. Officials pointed out at the time that cultural sensitivities were such that faster, deeper progress proved difficult, and Afghanistan had been a full member for three years by then.

The working group has been informed that the Taliban do not otherwise interfere with the running of the ACB. The government apparently provided some money to an administration that was badly hit after the Taliban took over as international sanctions made it difficult to send money into the country.

In any case, changes in full member status are rare and none other than Zimbabwe has ever had its membership suspended or downgraded. But the fact that Afghanistan remains the only full member without a women’s team, or even lineup – incidentally part of the ICC’s membership criteria – has been under constant emphasis in recent months.

They were the only member not to attend the groundbreaking U19 T20 Women’s World Cup in January and then the T20 Women’s World Cup immediately after. That point was not lost on the ICC CEO, Geoff Allardice, who said ahead of the U19 tournament that it was worrying that no progress had been made on the matter.

FICA, the body of the world players, also called the ban on women’s sports a “significant blow” and pointed out that Afghanistan “contradicts” the requirements of its Full Members. But it did not call for a ban on Afghanistan, instead calling on the ICC to “embed its human rights responsibilities as a business in its governance and regulatory frameworks.”

A number of Afghan female cricketers have also been very clear in calling for the ICC to take a more proactive role. That reports ABC Radio The ticket, 22 of the 25 cricketers who were part of that original pool have left the country and resettled in Australia. During the show in January, several players asked why the ICC had not reached out to offer support since they fled.

“If we have the support of the ACB, the ICC, the people of Afghanistan and other countries that play cricket, then it will be possible for us to continue playing,” one of the players, Firooza Afghan, said on the show.

“In Australia we have a lot of support – a lot of equipment and facilities. But my question is, women have been playing cricket in Afghanistan since 2010…why didn’t the ICC send anyone to check on us?”

The players wrote to the ICC a few months ago asking about ways the global body could help the women team up. The ICC pointed out that such aid would constitutionally have to go through the member – the ACB – but intends to keep dialogue open with the cricketers.

And there’s been a lot of thought about the issue within ICC management as it stands, including the idea of ​​funding a women’s team outside of Afghanistan, and one that’s running outside of ACB approval. That only represents initial exploratory thinking on the subject and action would require the agreement of the ICC Board.

Cricket Australia is the only administration to have publicly commented on the Taliban’s policies. They first postponed a one-off test in which they would host Afghanistan – the first the two countries would have played – and more recently canceled the ODI series, in response to the education ban on women.

Most other full ICC members have so far remained silent on the issue, though the majority still see the rise of the Afghan men’s team as a fairy tale that should continue and grow, rather than be curtailed.

“It needs to be discussed seriously (at the board level),” McCollum said. “Each full member will have their own interpretation. I don’t think it’s an easy decision because it’s complex and there are consequences.”


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