Image Credits: Republic World/AP
A day after the armed Taliban stormed into the Afghan Cricket Board (ACB) Headquarters in Kabul, the country's cricket board CEO Hamid Shinwari has said that the Taliban 'love' and 'support' the game. Speaking to PTI, ACB CEO Hamid Shinwari also assured that the members of the national team and their families are safe as the Taliban took over the reins of the country. Currently, Afghanistan's ace players Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi, and Mujeeb Zadran are playing in the UK in the 'Hundred' tournament.
Notably, before the Taliban took over Afghanistan and the insurgents-led violence was at its peak, Skipper Rashid Khan had appealed to world leaders. Rashid Khan had outlined that the people of Afghanistan were getting killed and displaced.
However, the long-standing war in Afghanistan reached a watershed moment on August 15 when the Taliban insurgents closed in on Afghanistan's capital Kabul and entered the city and took over the presidential palace, but it turned out that Ashraf Ghani had fled sometime before that, even though his other senior government officials, namely FVP Amrullah Saleh and Chairperson for National Reconciliation Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, are still in Afghanistan.
Speaking on the impact of the current scenario on Afghanistan cricket, Shinwari said, "The Taliban love cricket. They have supported us since the beginning. They did not interfere in our activities. I don't see any interference and expect support so that our cricket can move forward. We have got an active chairman, and I remain CEO until a further notice."
Cricket's rise in the country coincided with the Taliban's rule between 1996 and 2001 with many Afghan refugees in neighbouring Pakistan picking up the sport.
"It can be said that cricket flourished during the Taliban era. It is also a fact that many of our players practised in Peshawar and they made the sport mainstream in Afghanistan," added Shinwari.
"The good thing is that we are heading towards normalcy. The people have started working. We will resume our office from tomorrow and the national camp which was underway ahead of the Pakistan series in Sri Lanka will also resume after a two-day break with the change in regime," Shinwari further stated.
Shinwari added that he hopes major cricketing powers including the BCCI play with them more often, providing a big push to their finances and over the health of the game in the country.
"We want to establish regular bilateral cricket ties with all cricketing giants including BCCI, which has always been there for us," he added.
Talking about the player's safety, he said, "Other than four or five players who are playing overseas the rest are all in Kabul. Like I said, they are safe and doing fine."
Afghanistan are scheduled to play a three-match ODI series against Pakistan in Colombo from September 1.
Shinwari said all their scheduled bilateral series remain on track and all three IPL bound players -- Rashid, Nabi, and Mujeeb -- have got NOCs from the board to take part in the cash-rich event ahead of the T20 World Cup.
"We don't see any cricketing activity suffering with the change of regime," said Shinwari.
Former England batsman Kevin Pietersen, who is involved with the 'Hundred' event in the UK, said Rashid is naturally worried about the situation back home.
"We had a long chat here on the boundary talking about it and he's worried. He can't get his family out of Afghanistan and there's a lot of things happening for him." Pietersen told Sky Sports.
"For him to turn up and put on a performance like this under the pressure that he is currently under... for him to be able to forget that stuff and navigate his story and continue the momentum that he has - I think that's probably one of the most heart-warming stories of this Hundred so far," added Pietersen.