Could Taliban's Control Over Afghanistan Cricket Affect Participation in T20 WC?

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As the Taliban extend their hold over Afghanistan, their move to change the leadership of the nation's cricket body over the last month should attract sanctions from the ICC, that, according to rules and past precedent, could lead to the men's national team being left out of next month's ICC T20 World Cup.

Should. Because, despite the Taliban making changes to two top positions in the cricket board and also disbanding the women's cricket team, the ICC is yet to make a statement on their reaction to the developments, if any.

Should. Also because, in the past, the ICC has stepped in and suspended national cricket boards like in 2019 when Zimbabwe Government's interference saw the cricket board suspended, which ultimately led to the men's team not being allowed to participate in the 2021 T20 World Cup Qualifiers.

Also Read: IPL Broadcast Banned in Afghanistan: Reports

ICC Laws Prohibit Government Involvement

According to the ICC's Constitution– that all its member nations need to comply with– the boards need to "manage its affairs autonomously and ensure that there is no government".

In article 2.4 of the Constitution, it says each member must at all times "manage its affairs autonomously and ensure that there is no government (or other public or quasi-public body) interference in its governance, regulation and/or administration of Cricket in its Cricket Playing Country (including in operational matters, in the selection and management of teams, and in the appointment of coaches or support personnel)."

While the above ICC clause clearly states that no Government interference is allowed in the workings of a national cricket body, the Taliban has already made two new major appointments in the last month. First they re-appointed Azizullah Fazli as the board's chairman and on Monday, Naseeb Khan was made the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the board replacing Hamid Shinwari who was appointed in April 2021.

The ICC though is yet to react to the developments with their last communication stating that they would discuss the matter at the board meeting in November.

However, this may not sit well with international boards and even players with Aussie Test skipper Tim Paine already expressing his surprise at the ICC's silence after Taliban disbanded Afghanistan's women's cricket team last month. The move has already seen a strong reaction from Cricket Australia who have threatened to cancel their Test match against Afghanistan's men's team that they are slated to host later this year.

""We've heard nothing from the ICC, which is fascinating given there is a T20 World Cup in just over a month's time. I'd imagine it's impossible [for Afghanistan to take part] if teams are pulling out of playing against them and governments are not letting them travel to our shores."" - Tim Paine, Australian Test Captain

Also Read: Afghanistan Caretaker Government: Taliban Names Remaining Cabinet Ministers

Past Precedent

Back in 2019, when the Zimbabwe Government suspended their cricket board's elected body and replaced it with an interim committee following a string of poor performances of the national teams, the ICC stepped in and suspended Zimbabwe Cricket, also blocking all ICC funding to the nation.

"We do not take the decision to suspend a member lightly but we must keep our sport free from political interference. What has happened in Zimbabwe is a serious breach of the ICC constitution and we cannot allow it to continue unchecked," Shashank Manohar, the ICC Chairman at the time had said.

Last year, South Africa's cricket body too stood on the brink of suspension when the country's Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa got involved in the workings of the cricket board.

However, at the time, the ICC said a complaint of Government intervention in the sport has to come from the cricket board itself saying, "At this stage, no complaint has been received from Cricket South Africa regarding government intervention and Members are encouraged to resolve matters directly with their governments. We will continue to monitor the situation".

South Africa eventually avoided suspension though all eyes now are on the ICC if they take a similar approach with the Afghanistan Cricket Board. Only, in this situation, most members in power have recently been elected and the men who were replaced are unlikely to speak out against a regime that has a violent and vindictive track record.

T20 World Cup in a Month

While according to the ICC's communication, they are set to discuss the matter only after the T20 World Cup in the UAE gets underway next month, at their board meeting, there is yet another development that could force their hand.

According to a report in The Telegraph UK, the Taliban is keen to showcase their power on the world stage and may submit the Taliban flag as the national flag of Afghanistan for the T20 World Cup. The move will most definitely force the world body to clarify their stand on the developments as it will showcase a clear involvement of the Government in the nation's cricket body's functionings.

Afghanistan are placed in Group 2 in men's T20 World Cup alongside New Zealand, 2007 champions India, 2009 champions Pakistan and two yet-to-be-known qualifiers from Round 1. Their campaign starts from October 25 against a qualifier team in Sharjah.

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