The Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) has abruptly sacked its chief executive officer Lutfullah Stanikzai on Monday, two years before his contract expires. In a letter written to Stanikzai, which ESPNcricinfo has seen, ACB chairman Farhan Yusefzai said Stanikzai's contract was being terminated for "mismanagement", "unsatisfactory performance," and "misbehavior with managers." The board also made the announcement through a release on Monday.
"This is to inform you that this letter serves as confirmation that your employment contract in the capacity of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Afghanistan Cricket Board is terminated effectively. Your last employment date with ACB is July 29, 2020," the letter said.
"The reason(s) of your contract termination is as below:

  • Mismanagement
  • Unsatisfactory Performance
  • Misbehavior with Managers."
  • The ACB release also stated Stanikzai had been sacked due to "ignorance in his responsibilities," and he had been "warned verbally and in writing in the past." The board said it would advertise for the vacancy soon.
    Stanikzai said he was surprised by the development and first found out about it from social media and not by any communication from the board. He said he had spoken to Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhail, the state minister for parliamentary affairs, who sits on the ACB Board and even he was not aware.
    "I spoke to a [ACB] board member and was told that they are not aware" Stanikzai told ESPNcricinfo. "According to ACB constitution, the CEO is appointed by the Board and any decision concerning the CEO should be done by the Board."
    Stanikzai, who had served previously as a media manager, was hired as the CEO on a three-year contract in July last year immediately after Afghanistan's dismal performance at the 2019 World Cup where they finished last in the 10-team tournament without a single win.
    Stanikzai had replaced Asadullah Khan, who had been charged with breaching the ACB constitution and policies on various decisions. Khan's tenure as acting chief executive was short-lived after he was replaced in July. He had replaced Shafiqullah Stanikzai whose four-year term had ended in February 2019.
    The hand of the Afghanistan government in the ACB politics is not lost upon the ICC. ESPNcricinfo understands the ICC last year alerted the ACB that it was concerned by the inconsistency in the leadership in the Afghanistan board. That message was delivered by Imran Khawaja, then ICC's deputy chairman, who was recently appointed as interim chair of the global cricket body.
    It is understood that Khawaja raised three issues with the ACB last September: concerns about its leadership, the money that the ACB receives from the ICC be strictly utilised for development of cricket in the country and, thirdly, the ACB should strengthen its internal audit.
    Afghanistan were granted Full Membership in 2017, which entitled them to a distribution cost from the ICC for participating in global tournaments. As per the new finance model, they would get around US$ 40 million for the 2016-23 commercial rights cycle for projected ICC revenues of $2.7 billion. However, with the ICC's projected revenues coming down, those costs have been adjusted to close to $4.8 million per year.
    In January this year the ACB received about $2.4 million as part of the ICC's distribution money. However, the ACB has been reeling financially after one of its major team sponsors pulled out in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Consequently the ACB cut salaries of its entire coaching staff since May.

    Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo