Afghanistan: Cricketing fairy tale or PR exercise


This week Afghanistan dumped Sri Lanka out of the Asia Cup with their first ever win over the island nation in an ODI, marking another milestone in their meteoric rise to cricket’s elite but have the ICC unfairly favoured them because of their history.

Afghanistan became the twelfth nation to play Test cricket earlier this year after the ICC granted themselves and Ireland full member status earlier in 2017. The pair were the first inductions into full membership since the addition of Bangladesh in 2000.

On the field Afghanistan are deserving of the plaudits that come their way. Unable to play any matches at home due to ongoing political instability Afghanistan have captured the hearts of the cricketing world with their fearless brand of cricket and caused plenty of upsets along the way. Few nations have risen through the ranks of the Intercontinental Cup with such speed and purpose.

Off the field though there were clear and obvious reasons to deny Afghanistan full membership of the ICC. First of all, they are not able to host matches within their own country, not only due to general instability but cricket matches serve as active targets for extremists in Afghanistan. Given that Afghanistan’s neighbours Pakistan haven’t played a Test at home since 2009 the ICC clearly felt they could let that slide.

There are other concerns though. Afghanistan’s women’s team was formed in 2010 but they have been unable to play any matches. Forces within Afghanistan remain opposed to women participating in sport. Since the Taliban regime was removed in 2001, women’s rights have gradually improved under the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan but the fight to participate in sport has yet to be fully won. A nation like Scotland would appear to be more deserving in terms of how the game is administered though results on the pitch haven’t always gone their way.

Scotland even has a competitive women’s team, but they don’t have the fairy tale qualities of Afghanistan. The ICC have allowed the cricketing world to feel part of welcoming Afghanistan back into the global community after years of isolation and it has proven to be wildly popular. Afghanistan’s cricket team make for great stories. In a few short years they have produced global superstars in Rashid Khan and 2018 sensation Mujeeb Ur Rahman, all while life in their home country continues to prove intensely challenging akin to strategies like this

Afghanistan’s ability to be competitive in T20I and ODI cricket so quickly has been remarkable though and there is no way that they should lose their Test status but the ICC must ensure that they make up for their shortcomings.

Hopefully we will one day see Afghanistan women take to the international field in Kabul, until that day the ICC has work to do in getting their fairy tale into line. However this stacks up in the end, it’s going to be a hang of a ride and one that fans and pundits alike can really look forward to. Whichever way you choose to look at this, it’s going to be good for the game of cricket as a whole and the future that it will bring for all involved.

For a lot of people, Afghanistan seem the next big thing, and they want to support them accordingly. To reiterate, Bangladesh have been down a similar road in the past. They have had a few forks in that road, and they’ve chosen rightly and wrongly along the way. Importantly, they have chosen to choose, though, not just go through the motions and hope for the best. The same is very much anticipated from Afghanistan.