Most cricketers stay back in Afghanistan for Shpageeza T20 league despite bomb blast
Despite a suicide bomber detonating explosives near the Alokozay Kabul International Cricket Ground and killing three people last week, most foreigners in the ongoing Shpageeza Cricket League have decided to stay with the tournament coming to an end on September 22.
According to ESPNcricinfo, a total of eight overseas personnel, from South Africa and Zimbabwe, have left Afghanistan following the attack. The Boost Defenders and MIS Ainak Knights were playing their league match when the attack happened.
The match had resumed after a nod from the security officials to the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB), but concerns remained over the security of foreign players and officials.
Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) and Cricket South Africa (CSA) had revoked the No Objection Certificates (NOC), asking their players to return immediately. However, many among them have decided to stay back.
Among those who have returned are Cameron Delport, Morne van Wyk, Glenton Stuurman and Abdul Razak from South Africa, as well as Hamilton Masakadza and Solomon Mire from Zimbabwe.
Rayad Emrit from West Indies had also chosen to return home but he decided to play two more games post the attack and then left the country to be with his pregnant wife.
Among the most notable names that left is former South African batsman Herschelle Gibbs, who was working as the head coach of Speen Ghar Tigers.
A long list of players who decided to stay and continue playing are from Zimbabwe, namely Sikandar Raza, Jonathan Campbell, Richard Ngarava, Tendai Chisoro, Elton Chigumbura, Vusi Sibanda, Luke Jongwe and Richmond Mutumbami.
Former Pakistan all-rounder Abdul Razzaq, Sri Lankan Ashan Priyanjan and Omani cricketers Zeeshan Maqsoon and Bilal Khan are also among those who have stayed back.
The coaches who decided to remain in Afghanistan are India’s Umesh Patwal, Gus Logie, Gordon Parsons, Andy Moles and former England cricketer Adam Hollioake.
“I wanted to stay until the job was done, I don’t like walking out on anything. This isn’t a Hollywood movie, this is their everyday life. I wanted to give those people the respect that they are due and that they have afforded me and not make an emotional decision,” Hollioake told BBC.
“There was a game going on between my team and another team that Andy Moles, another former English county player, was coaching. The protocol is that we have three stages of security. They have to get through the first stage, which this probably was, about 100m from the ground; then there is the second stage, which is about 50m from the ground, and the final stage is about 15-20m from the ground.
“The gentleman was caught at the first checkpoint and, on being caught, he detonated his device and, unfortunately, several of our security and some members of the public were killed,” Hollioake informed.
Among the overseas commentators, Dean Jones and Alistair Campbell have also decided to stay back. Jones is expected to join the commentary team for the ongoing India versus Australia five-match ODI series from the third game onwards.
ACB chief executive Shafiqullah Stanikzai informed that Afghanistan’s interior minister Wasim Bamrak had met all the teams on the evening of the attack. He conveyed Afghanistan president Mohammad Ashraf Ghani’s message of ensuring safety to the players and the officials.
The Afghan president also invited the overseas players and officials to his palace in Kabul, which is near to the team hotel. He reportedly informed them of providing president-level security.
Zimbabwe’s Raza, among those who are staying back, told ESPNCricinfo, “The security has improved. The radius of the safe zone has grown bigger. After the incident, there are two ways to look at it. One way is that the incident happened close to the ground. The other way to look at it is that the security forces managed to stop that guy from getting in. So, security did work.
“There was a moment of fear, but once we realised that everyone was safe and nobody was hurt or dead, it brought us to our feet again. The game stopped and we tried to find out what exactly had happened. We managed to find out that the security forces had done their job and the man was stopped. The sound itself was pretty loud and there was a moment of fear. But we got out of it pretty quickly and that’s why we went out and played the game,” Raza added.