Zim cricketers happy in Afghanistan

HARARE - Zimbabwe cricketers participating in the Shpageeza Cricket League in Kabul, Afghanistan say they are happy to continue participating in the tournament despite a blast that killed three people last week.

A suicide bomber is reported to have detonated his device leading to the deadly blast outside a cricket stadium during a match pitting Boost Defenders and Mis-E-Ainak Knights which is home to three Zimbabwean players Sikandar Raza, Vusi Sibanda and Ryan Burl.

There were at least nine local players in the Asian country for the tournament which is now at the semi-final stage.

The league comprises six teams and features about two dozen overseas players from South Africa, West Indies, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Oman.

Zimbabwe Cricket recalled all the players out of Afghanistan citing security concerns but only batsmen Hamilton Masakadza and Solomon Mire returned home.

The other seven players including Richmond Mutumbami, Elton Chigumbura, Tendai Chatara and Luke Jongwe remained behind after getting assurances from the Afghanistan authorities.

Former Zimbabwe cricketers, Edward Reinsford and Alistair Campbell, who are working as commentators, also decided to leave Afghanistan.

“All I know is players were ready to come back on the next flight but the league is an opportunity for players’ exposure,” A Zimbabwean player told the Daily News from Kabul, Afghanistan yesterday.

“The blast was unfortunate but at the end of the day the security worked and has been tightened even more.”

Former Pakistan Test cricketer Abdul Razzaq quit the Shpageeza Cricket League after learning of the blast while watching the match from a television set in his hotel room which is just a five-minute drive from the stadium.

“I was watching the other match on TV when I heard the loud blast. All the players were terrified,” Razzaq said.

“I immediately decided to return but the organisers (of the tournament) convinced me to play one more match. I played a match on Thursday (last week) wherein I made 30 runs but did not bowl. I will return to Pakistan in a day or two.”

Afghanistan’s Interior minister Wais Barmak wrote to Zimbabwe Sports minister Makhosini Hlongwane reassuring him that the players will be safe.

“I would like to assure you that the safety of everyone, including the Zimbabwean players and match officials involved in the...league, is very important to Afghan national defence and security forces and the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan,” Barmak wrote.

“We have met with your delegation to discuss the security arrangements and we have intensified all our efforts to increase the security measure even further.

“These steps include extra security where they are staying, police escort and increasing police presence at the sport venue. We understand your delegation is happy with these arrangements.”

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