Eight days after a suicide bomber killed hundreds at Kabul airport, the Taliban allowed a cricket match to be played in the Afghan capital. The players were selected from among the best Afghan cricketers. About 4,000 spectators attended—each thumped at the gates by Taliban guards. The enthusiastic but prudent crowd waved both the Afghan flag and the Taliban flag. No women were present.
Under Taliban rule, education, music, and warm-heartedness have been replaced by religious dogma of the seventh century. Afghanistan today is a country that is almost completely devoid of joy. I would have dropped the word “almost” if it weren’t for cricket. Afghan refugees learned the sport in Pakistan in the 1990s, and it is now perhaps Afghanistan’s most popular spectator sport.