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ICC sets up working group to review cricket in Taliban-governed Afghanistan

ICC says it wants to support the ACB in its efforts to grow cricket - for men and women - in the troubled country

The ICC Board has set up a working group to observe and review cricket in Afghanistan in general and, more specifically, the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) after the developments following the Taliban takeover of the country. The group, to be chaired by Imran Khwaja, also includes Ross McCollum, Lawson Naidoo and Ramiz Raja and will report back to the Board over the coming months.
"The ICC Board is committed to continuing to support Afghanistan Cricket to develop both men's and women's cricket moving forward," ICC chairman Greg Barclay said in a media statement. "We believe the most effective way for this to happen will be to support our Member in its efforts to achieve this through its relationship with the new government.
"Cricket is fortunate to be in the position to influence positive change in Afghanistan with the national men's team a source of great pride and unity in a country with a young population that has experienced more upheaval and change than most. We should protect that status and continue to try to influence change through the ACB but will continue to closely monitor the situation and take any decisions accordingly."
Ramiz, the chairman of the PCB, meanwhile, has said that the ICC Board's decision had come about partly as a reaction to evidence of factionalism in the ACB. More than one candidate is said to have contacted the ICC claiming to be chair of the ACB ahead of the meeting. They were told by the ICC to sort the matter out among themselves and though an invitation was sent out to the board CEO, he did not attend the meeting.
"The more things get stable in Afghanistan, the more their representation will get stronger," Ramiz said.
Since the Taliban assumed power in Afghanistan, and the group's stance that women would not be allowed to play sport became public, Cricket Australia has postponed a scheduled Test match against Afghanistan, at home in Hobart in November, and there has been speculation that other boards might follow suit.
"Our goal is to see men and women playing cricket in Afghanistan. Our view is that the best way to achieve that is to stay closely connected with the cricket board and try to influence through the cricket board"
Geoff Allardice
Geoff Allardice, the ICC interim chief executive, had told select media during the course of the T20 World Cup recently, "Afghanistan is our member, and they are going through some change at the moment. We are just trying to liaise with them, ensure that cricket is being governed and the board is governed appropriately and in accordance with their constitution.
"The second is that their cricket is continuing to function. We've supported them and the team has performed at this event. You've seen their players in a number of events now. In terms of how our board will consider the situation in Afghanistan at its meeting next week, they will get a report on how things are travelling. They're going through a lot of change within the country and in terms of the relationship of the cricket board with the new regime."
Answering a question about the future of the men's national team in the event that there was no change in the Taliban's position on women's sport - or cricket specifically - Allardice had said, "Our goal is to see men and women playing cricket in Afghanistan. Our view is that the best way to achieve that is to stay closely connected with the cricket board and try to influence through the cricket board.
"They're on a steady trajectory of development there and we would like to see that continue. How other members react with their bilateral arrangements with Afghanistan is up to them. We will be working through their situation at our board level and with their board as well. They are the agents for developing cricket in their country.
"They [the ACB] have said to us that women's cricket is continuing. They certainly haven't given us an indication that it has stopped. Time will tell, in terms of how that plays out. Yes, we have been in regular communication with them from the time things changed in their country. We are hoping to have some meetings with their representatives around our board meetings."
There have been a few changes at the top at the ACB of late too.
When 33-year-old Afghanistan allrounder Mirwais Ashraf was appointed acting chairman of the board last week, it was the second such update in four months after Azizullah Fazli had been named chairman replacing Farhan Yusufzai, who left the country after the Taliban took over.
No proper reason has been given by the ACB about the latest change, but it has been learnt that Fazli's appointment was always intended to be a temporary one.
As reported by ESPNcricinfo at the time, the Afghan government has plans of revamping the working structure of the board. "The government is trying to bring in more competent people with expertise in technical aspects of the game - commercial, business and marketing," a former director of the ACB told ESPNcricinfo. "If Afghanistan can produce world-class players with this broken system back home, then imagine what they can do with a competent board."