The Afghan girl who made her cricket team run away. Cricket

What if the most surprising story in Afghanistan cricket today isn’t about white-ball success or left-arm wrist spinners? But instead a 5-foot-tall teenage cricketer, covered from head to toe, is shown at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, arguing with a Taliban border guard with a machine gun and, who he was really afraid of, a whip.

During the match, the pitch area was seen covered with plastic sheets after play was stopped due to rain. (AP)

“We are not afraid of guns or bombs, we grew up with them. But the whipping – it is merciless, vicious,” says Benafsha Hashimi. In the early hours of a September 2021 morning, she shows Talib her border pass She was accompanied by brother Hamid, the two most fluent Urdu speakers in their family.” Talib was on edge. He asked Hamid who is the man here who has given girls the right to talk that you have given it. He should be silent, stand aside.

That night, Benafsha was the first player on the Afghan women’s cricket team to attempt to escape from the Taliban. The fourth of eight children of the widow of an Afghan special forces soldier, she became a leading figure among female cricketers in Kabul. At 18 she was one of their youngest players, but she took charge of gathering information and paperwork and sharing it with a group of Australian social workers and rights activists.

After the Taliban takeover on August 21, Benafsha says she had many opportunities to travel to the US, Canada, Dubai or Pakistan, just to be with her family. “But you know how they say one person doesn’t make a team. I spent so much time with these girls, how could I leave them?” Only teenage idealism can make the impossible a priority. When the Australians reached out to Benafsha, they weren’t promising to get the whole team out. “It had to happen to all of us. When I said that I love my team, he said, is it possible to eliminate everyone in one go? It had to be step by step. In complete secrecy”

As soon as he was given the signal to leave, the girl known as ‘Chhoti Shaitan’ confiscated all his family’s phones. not talking to anyone His group was first on the road, leaving home at 3 a.m. (“I was crying, we went like thieves”), with the families of three more cricketers following behind. Throughout the trip, she wrote updates and warnings about 15 or more check points. At every outpost it was told that before reaching the border, the convoy was going to a wedding in Nangarhar. Failing to believe that an angry Talib could ruin the entire evacuation. “I said I’ll sit here until you let us go.”

For a long time I knew Benafsha only through WhatsApp voice notes. The saddest thing is that after the arrival of the Taliban in August 2021, it was small, low, defeated, wrapped in terror and fear. It was difficult to imagine that voice against Talib. But when talking about other things – how cricket drives him, his love for his team, what he thinks about the treatment of Afghan women – I remember the voice becoming sharp, sure, intransigent.

Benafsha started playing cricket at the age of five and, inspired by the success of Hamid Hasan, refused to stop when told she could no longer play on the streets. Harassed the Afghan women’s cricket manager with daily calls to know when women’s practice would resume. He was mocked by the guards at the stadium for landing hours early.

That night at the border, her brothers took over, and when they finally left, “I was in shock, I didn’t know what would happen after that.” Cars were waiting to take them to Peshawar and Islamabad the next day. then after a fortnight, on an Australian military plane to Dubai, finally landing in Australia on 8 October.

The Australian team working round the clock for Afghan women cricketers prefers to remain anonymous. The exact number of women cricketers and families that have fled Afghanistan thanks to the efforts of Benafsha and friends is unclear. Except an ABC News story stated that 22 out of a total of 25 contracted women cricketers who had fled to Pakistan had been given emergency visas to Australia. The number must be more than one hundred. Benafsha said, “I did what I had to do, I tried my best – I was just the bridge.”

The women are now based in Canberra and Melbourne. Last season, Benafsha played for Tageranong Valley Cricket Club, traveled to Fiji with Cricket Without Borders and took the wicket of the Governor General. “When I am playing cricket, I forget everything.” But what came out of the ICC’s March board meeting, which increased the Afghanistan Cricket Board’s budget but made no specific comments about their women. “I fell ill. Girls have been playing since 2014, they made the team then, Afghanistan destroyed the team, then we made the team and now they are saying there is no team? If it is a crime to have a girl child, then open Say it.

Responding to Hindustan Times, an ICC spokesperson replied, “The ICC’s relationship with players in any member country is managed by the board in that country, the ICC does not get involved. Similarly, men and women The authority to field national teams rests entirely with the member boards in any country, and not the ICC.

Dr Catherine Ordway, Associate Professor, Head of Sport Integrity Research, University of Canberra, is not impressed. “The ICC could start by providing transparency on where the money has gone – and will be spent – ​​when funding member organisations. In the case of the ACB, where women forced to flee their homeland to survive Gaya… (in a country) where there is a ban on women’s sports, women’s education and women’s participation in public life, how is funding to the ACB acceptable?”

Afghan women are angry that the ACB has ghosted them: Tracey Holmes reports on the ABC, that during a visit by ACB officials ahead of the men’s T20 World Cup in November 2022, an unidentified Afghan women cricketer called chairman Mirwaiz Ashraf Tracked down to a restaurant but, “when I got there, he got into his car and left.”

Benafsha says that she is very sad because women of Afghanistan are risking their lives for cricket. The unknown callers threatened Benafsha and her younger sister. She says that on one of the routes taken by the women players, children were asked to pelt stones at the cricketers, so she chose a longer route. They were regularly harassed as spoiled, dirty, damaged women.

“Everyone says that men have made Afghan cricket. Excuse me – you supported them, you paid them, they moved on…’ Benafsha Hashimi didn’t weigh the consequences of the risk she was taking to rescue her team mates from the clutches of the Taliban, and now she does Doesn’t “To tell the truth I (tell the truth), I don’t care.”

The same thing happened… even at the border…

Just then the phone rang, its ringtone playing a Persian love song, which was very popular in Kabul. Sending Talib to the zenith of terror, shouting Astaghfirullah, seeking forgiveness from God for this heresy. Hamid whacked the phone with trembling fingers, tried to cut the music, muttered under his breath, “I’m going to die, we’re all going to die…” It was Benafsha’s teammate Shazia, across the road. in the cars telling him she had sent a document that was needed.

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