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Turbans and Turmoil - Cricket, Taliban Style

Islamic fundamentalism, military hardware and human rights abuses are not the only area’s for which the feared Taliban regime of Afghanistan aspire to attain international recognition. It would appear set deep in the sights of the Taliban leadership is the sport of infidels, Cricket. Although Afghanistan is not known as a cricketing nation as such, it would appear the sport has caught the eye of the Taliban who until recently were not prepared to tolerate it as a result of its roots being set firmly in the British Colonial backgrounds of both India and Pakistan. Provided Afghan players are prepared to adhere to the strict code of Islam during play, it would seem the Taliban have now decided to accept the sport of cricket as legitimate and not contrary to the ways of Allah.

In recent years, cricket has become popular amongst Afghan refugees returning to their homeland from camps in Pakistan, where the sport of cricket became very popular amongst the daily boredom of refugee camp life. Subsequently, regular cricket matches were held in Afghanistan up until the beginning of the most recent attacks by the US led coalition forces in the “War against Terrorism.”

On 14 October 2001, a 16 man squad from Afghanistan arrived in the Pakistani city of Peshawar to compete in the second division of the local Pakistan competition known as the Patrons Trophy. Afghan captain Allah Dad Noori, is quoted as saying “cricket has nothing to do with politics, but he hoped the tour would help dispel ideas that Afghanistan was a haven for terrorists and Islamic extremists.” A fact which by all appearances would be contary to most recent events in the country. Obviously, he would have been better off trying to convice the Afghan population of this, rather than the media from the “infidel nations”.

In January 2000, the Taliban regime wrote to the Pakistan Cricket Board seeking support to join the International Cricket Council as an associate member. Subsequently, a decision was made by the PCB to visit Afghanistan to inspect cricket facilities prior to any official approach to the ICC in support of the the Taliban request. To date, events in the country appear to have overtaken attempts by Pakistan to fulfil its committment to the Taliban regime. Although a visit to Afghanistan by the Asian Development Officer for the ICC was scheduled for July 2000, it would appear it never took place.

Although we all know that sport and politics should never mix, it would be safe to say, whilst the Taliban regime remain in power within Afghanistan, consideration should not be given to any relationship with the ICC other than that which already exists, whereby the ICC recognise that cricket is played within the nation itself. Nothing more, nothing less.

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