While Afghanistan’s male cricketers like Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi, and Mujeeb Ur Rahman have enjoyed a lot of success at the international level, there are hardly any Afghan women cricketers that are known to the world.
In order to change this and give a boost to women’s cricket in the country, the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) has brought about a paradigm shift in the women’s squad. To encourage more and more girls to take up cricket, it recently awarded contracts to 25 players following trials at the Kabul International Stadium. Batswoman Roya Samim was one of them.
Great News from Afghanistan Cricket Board. 😃
— Female Cricket (@imfemalecricket) November 5, 2020
“When I started (playing cricket), I did not know whether there would be a national team because people’s negative thoughts had me discouraged and disheartened. But I did not give up,” said Samim, who looks up to Smriti Mandhana and Stafanie Taylor.
Samim’s teammate Naheeda Sapand, an all-rounder, said, “Even with the support of her parents, the journey had not been easy. Security and cultural constraints remain our key challenges. Even at school and university, I faced resistance and opposition, but my enthusiasm never died,” said Sapand.
The women’s team will begin formal training under the tutelage of an international coach later this month, with the aim of playing their first international match early next year. The squad was announced last month and the ACB stressed it was “adhering to the traditional Afghan and Islamic values”.
The first training camp would be held in an Islamic country. However, there are still many obstacles in the way as this is a country where many men are not very comfortable with the idea of their sisters and daughters playing the gentleman’s sport. Sadly, even within the ACB, not everyone believes in the talent of the women’s team.
Apart from this, security has always been a major concern. This is primarily because of the unrest in the Taliban. The Taliban, which banned girls from being educated when they ruled Afghanistan, now control wide areas of the country and there has been an uptick in attacks on prominent women. Though there are no direct threats against the cricketers so far, officials at the ACB said, “Recent attacks including a deadly assault last month on the Kabul University campus had raised fears.”
Cognizant of disbelief in the Board on the formation of women’s team, Chairman Farhan Yusefzai said, “Many Muslim countries have their national women’s teams. Here in Afghanistan, we have the national football team, volleyball teams, swimming team, so why not cricket. I call each player and member of the women department at the cricket board as my sisters,” he said. This is the extent of respect we have for them.”
The men made their World Cup debut in 2015, in which they clinched one win over Scotland. A couple of years later, the country was admitted as a full member of the International Cricket Council. It remains to be seen whether this can inspire the women’s team as well as the ACB to take a big stride.
I am a former cricketer having represented Mumbai University at All India University level. I was a part of MCA probables for the U-19 and U-23 age group. I have been an avid cricket writer for the last five years. Currently I am pursuing my Ph.D from IIT Bombay.