The Cricket Australia governing body has said it will cancel its men’s team’s upcoming inaugural test match against Afghanistan if the Taliban disbands the country’s women’s team.
Australia and Afghanistan are currently scheduled to play what would be a historic test match in Hobart, Tasmania, in late November, which would represent the first time those two countries have played against each other in cricket’s longest format.
However, CA has now said in a statement that, if reports emanating from Afghanistan about the likely shutdown of women’s cricket following the Taliban's power grab last month are true, then the game will not take place.
The governing body has said: “If recent 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 in Hobart.”
That game, which would serve as a warm-up for Australia before their prestigious home ‘Ashes’ series against England, is due to start on 26 November.
The concern from CA has come following an interview that Australian broadcaster SBS conducted with Ahmadullah Wasiq, the deputy head of the Taliban’s so-called Cultural Commission, in which Wasiq said: “I don't think women will be allowed to play cricket.”
While the Taliban have already said they will continue to support the men’s team, the International Cricket Council’s rules state that all 12 ICC full members (Afghanistan is now in that category) must have a functioning women’s team to retain their status.
Only full members are able to play fixtures with test match status, meaning this is likely to have wider repercussions for the men’s team’s future in that format.
Wasiq told SBS: “I don't think women will be allowed to play cricket because it is not necessary that women should play … Islam does not allow women to be seen like this [without their faces and bodies being covered].”
Hamid Shinwari, chief executive of the Afghanistan Cricket Board, told media recently: “So far, we don’t have any news from the government.”
The ICC has meanwhile said in its own statement: “The ICC has been monitoring the changing situation in Afghanistan and is concerned to note recent media reports that women will no longer be allowed to play cricket.”
During the Taliban’s previous stretch ruling Afghanistan in the late 1990s, girls were not allowed to either attend school or play sport.