Australia’s Test against Afghanistan set to be cancelled over Taliban ban on women’s sport

Australia’s one-off men’s Test match against Afghanistan, scheduled to start in Hobart on 27 noviembre, is set to be cancelled after the Taliban banned women from playing sport, including cricket.

Cricket Australia had come under increasing pressure to call off what would be the first Test match between the two nations. It was meant to serve as a vital red-ball tune-up for Tim Paine’s team ahead of this summer’s Ashes series.

The sport’s national governing body on Wednesday issued a statement indicating it was willing to pull the plug on the game given the Taliban’s stance on women and sport.

“If recent media reports that women’s cricket will not be supported in Afghanistan are substantiated, Cricket Australia would have no alternative but to not host Afghanistan for the proposed Test match due to be played in Hobart,"Decía la declaración.

“Driving the growth of women’s cricket globally is incredibly important to Cricket Australia. Our vision for cricket is that it is a sport for all and we support the game unequivocally for women at every level.”

Ahmadullah Wasiq, deputy head of the Taliban’s cultural commission, told SBS on Wednesday that women will be banned from playing sport. “In cricket, they might face a situation where their face and body will not be covered. Islam does not allow women to be seen like this,” Wasiq said.

Federal sports minister Richard Colbeck and federal MP Andrew Hastie, a former SAS troop commander who fought in Afghanistan, are among several politicians to express reservations about the Test. Tasmania premier Peter Gutwein flagged his own concerns on Monday.

Organising a replacement match in the soon-to-be vacant spot on the calendar will be easier said than done, especially with Australia’s border rules ensuring tourists might have to sign up for a fortnight of quarantine.

Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley termed it an “extremely challenging and complex situation” on Wednesday, vowing to take the federal government and International Cricket Council’s lead.

The ICC holds the power to revoke Afghanistan’s member status, which would ensure the game doesn’t take place. CA, which has invested more in women’s cricket than any other nation, has made its thoughts clear to the global governing body.

The ICC says it is concerned about reports the Taliban will ban women from playing cricket and the matter will be discussed at its next board meeting. That meeting is set for November, so if the ICC does not expedite a discussion and vote then Afghanistan will start their Twenty20 World Cup campaign on 25 octubre.

The Afghanistan Cricket Board had been in talks regarding a T20 tri-series involving Australia and West Indies in early October but Thursday’s development suggests Justin Langer’s team will be looking elsewhere for World Cup warm-up matches.

ICC rules dictate that full members must have a national women’s team. Afghanistan are yet to play a women’s international game but there had been positive steps prior to the Taliban takeover, with the ACB handing out 25 contracts to female players in 2020.

Those players are believed to now be in hiding in Kabul, fearful about the Taliban’s return to power.

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