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Afghanistan women's cricket team: Why a boycott wouldn't help country's players


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Now she is speaking to me for the BBC Stumped podcast from Canada, where she was evacuated to with family members as the Taliban were taking over her homeland.

"If the ICC (International Cricket Council) or other countries boycott Afghanistan cricket, it won't help women to play cricket," she says.

Sangar is still in shock at the swift exit from everything she knows, but she is clear and passionate on the subject of cricket, as she talks from her lodgings in Toronto.

Since the Taliban's rapid resurgence, questions and fears have abounded over the future of women's sport and those who play it, especially cricket.

The sport has become the national game of Afghanistan due to the extraordinary rise of the men's team over the last decade.

The evolution of the women's game has been fledging in comparison but supporting a women's team is a requirement of Afghanistan's Test status, awarded to them by the International Cricket Council in 2014, and which enables them to play five-day Test matches in addition to one-day and Twenty20 internationals.

The prospect of women being forbidden to play cricket under the Taliban has led to calls in some quarters for the ICC to revoke the country's right to play Test cricket.

Some have gone as far as suggesting Afghanistan should be suspended from the international arena altogether in the stand for gender equality.

Supporting an Afghanistan where women are forbidden to play would go against the ICC's very own anti-discrimination policy. But, somehow, it doesn't seem right for the situation to be as clear cut as that.

Progress has been exceedingly slow in the women's game, but in November 2020 Afghanistan announced contracts for 25 women players for the first time.

The majority of the cricketers are now believed to be in hiding in Afghanistan. Others involved in the set-up, like Sangar, were able to find safe passage out of the country amid fears for their safety.

The ICC are concerned, are still monitoring the situation and have made no statement as to the country's future cricketing status. A board meeting is due next month.

The Taliban are yet to pass any firm law about sport and women. In an unexpected turn, the new chair of the ACB, Azizullah Fazli, has been reported as telling SBS Radio Pashto that "we will give you our clear position on how we will allow women to play cricket. Very soon".

This more positive statement contradicts the deputy head of the Taliban's cultural commission, Ahmadullah Wasiq, who said in a media interview to the same broadcaster two days earlier that "it is not necessary" for women to play cricket.

That interview led Cricket Australia to state that if women's cricket isn't going to be supported, they would have no alternative but to refuse to host Afghanistan's men for a scheduled Test in Hobart in November.

I ask Sangar what she thinks of Cricket Australia's stance, and her response is considered, yet ultimately unequivocal.

"On the one hand it's good for the women's team - we're thankful they support us," she said.

"On the other hand, I think the Afghanistan men's team have done a lot for Afghanistan. Because of them, we know cricket. Because of our men's team, I know that women should play as well."

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