What's the story?
Five days after a suicide bomber detonated explosives at a checkpoint outside the Alokozay Kabul International Cricket Ground in Kabul, majority of the overseas players have decided to stay back and play out Afghanistan's domestic T20 league. This comes as a huge boost for Afghanistan Cricket Board and the nation as a whole after an incident which raised serious security concerns.
The foreign players, and officials, were sent an invite from President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani to his palace in the Afghan capital. Ghani assured them that the security will be full-proof and of the presidential level.
Zimbabwe's Sikandar Raza is one of the cricketers who decided to stay back and he revealed that the arrangements have been tightened. "The security has improved. The radius of the safe zone has grown bigger," Raza told ESPNcricnfo.
"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.
"From the cricketers' point of view, we certainly don't want anyone to lose their lives for us."
In case you didn't know...
The explosion took place on Wednesday, 13th September, during the Shpageeza T20 league's match between Boost Defenders and Mis-E-Ainak Knights. As a result of it, the match was stopped for some time, however, it restarted once the security officials gave their approval.
Three individuals, including the bomber, lost their lives but none of the players and officials was affected physically.
The heart of the matter
While all of the four South African players complied with their board's plea to return back, only two Zimbabwe players and a West Indian - Ryan Emrit - decided to leave. The latter, however, did play a couple of matches after the incident and left to attend to his pregnant wife. Among the officials, Herschelle Gibbs was the only one to leave.
From an Indian perspective, former Mumbai-based cricketer and assistant coach of ex-IPL franchise Kochi Tuskers, Umesh Patwal has chosen to stay back. Patwal, who has previously served as the batting coach of Afghanistan national team, is currently the coach of Band-e-Amir Dragons in the ongoing league.
Former Pakistan star Abdul Razzaq will also complete the tournament before packing his bags.
Players who left - Cameron Delport, Morne van Wyk, Glenton Stuurman and Abdul Razak (South Africa), Hamilton Masakazda and Solomon Mire (Zimbabwe), Rayad Emrit (West Indies).
Players who stayed - Elton Chigumbura, Sikandar Raza, Johnathan Campbell, Ryan Burl, Richard Ngarava, Tendai Chisoro, Luke Jongwe, Richmond Mutumbami and Vusi Sibanda (Zimbabwe), Abdul Razzaq (Pakistan), Ashan Priyanjan (Sri Lanka), Bilal Khan and Zeeshan Maqsood (Oman).
Officials and Commentators who stayed - Adam Hollioake, Andy Moles, Gus Logie, Gordon Parsons Umesh Patwal, Dean Jones and Alistair Campbell.
The tournament will continue as planned as the players and officials have been reassured of the safety arrangements. From the cricketing point of view, Band-e-Amir Dragons will be playing Mis Ainak Knights in the first qualifier, while Kabul Eagles and Boost Defenders will face off in the second.
It's heartening to see players choosing to stay back and play a part in the tournament in the cricket-frenzy war-torn nation. With President's intervention in the matter of security of the players, they seem confident and are eager to play in the final on the 22nd of this month.Published 18 Sep 2017, 21:44 IST