The future of Australia’s historic Test against Afghanistan remains bleak despite claims by cricket authorities in that country they are still planning for women to take part in the sport.
The Afghanistan Cricket Board has made an impassioned plea with CA for the game to go ahead, saying it feared a cancellation would set a precedent for other boards that could have dire consequences for the game in the country.
The Afghanistan Cricket Board is pleading with Cricket Australia not to cancel their Test in Hobart.Credit:AP
The International Cricket Council is set to call a board meeting to take place in the next fortnight or so to discuss Afghanistan’s playing future, in a development which leaves the nation’s position in the T20 World Cup in peril.
CA this week declared it “would have no alternative” but to scrap Australia’s Test against Afghanistan if the Taliban’s made true its claims to not allow women to play cricket because it was “not necessary”.
CA, which has not officially cancelled the game, wants the Afghanistan board to show evidence it is supporting women’s cricket in order for the Test to go ahead in Hobart in November.
In comments that appear to contradict the deputy head of the Taliban’s cultural commission, the ACB said it was looking at how women could play the game.
The deputy head of the Taliban’s Cultural Commission, Ahmadullah Wasiq, explains in an exclusive interview with @SBSNews why it is not necessary for women in Afghanistan to play sport and in particular cricket.
“We will give you our clear position on how we will allow women to play cricket,” ACB chairman Azizullah Fazli told SBS Radio Pashto. “Very soon, we will give you good news on how we will proceed.”
Describing CA’s response as a “knee-jerk reaction”, the ACB is urging Australia to adopt the “considered, balanced, cricket diplomacy” used by the ICC, which it says has been more sensitive to the country’s cultural and religious environment.
The ACB said it was “powerless” to change Afghanistan’s cultural and religious environment, and the cancellation of the Test would not have any impact either.
The board also said the comments made by the Taliban regarding female participation in cricket were not “substantially different” to the position held by the ACB during the democratically elected Karzai and Ghani governments in the past 20 years.
“We are concerned that, if other countries’ cricket administrators follow CA, then Afghan cricket will be alienated from the cricket world, the development of cricket in our country will be stalled and, even more concerning, cricket may cease to exist in Afghanistan,” ACB chief Hamid Shinwari said.
CA, whose chief Nick Hockley is in regular contact with his Afghanistan counterpart, wants to see a commitment from the ACB to the women’s game.
“We made our position very clear in the statement and remain in regular dialogue with our colleagues at the ACB,” CA said in a statement on Saturday.
Afghanistan’s status as a full member of the ICC will be discussed at the next board meeting of game’s global governing body. This had been scheduled to take place in person during the T20 World Cup in November but will be brought forward as a virtual conference, according to a source familiar with the issue.
A 2/3 majority of the 17-person board is required for action to be taken against Afghanistan, who face being turfed out of the T20 World Cup if it is suspended and not allowed to play international cricket. CA chairman Earl Eddings is Australia’s representative on the board.
The complexity of global politics makes it difficult to predict what stance nations will take.
It would be easier for the ICC board to argue for suspending the ACB on grounds of government interference – as was the case with Nepal in 2016, and Zimbabwe in 2019 – over human rights issues. For example, homosexuality is outlawed in Test nations Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Australia captain Tim Paine has foreshadowed players around the world discussing the boycotting of games against Afghanistan if they were allowed to keep playing. Australia, however, has been drawn in a different group to Afghanistan at the T20 World Cup and cannot meet until the semi-finals on the improbable chance both nations advanced that far.
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