Australia on Friday postponed a first-ever cricket Test against Afghanistan, amid fears the country’s ruling Taliban regime has banned women from playing the sport.
Australia’s cricketing authorities said that after consultation with “relevant stakeholders” it was decided the men’s Test, to be played in Hobart this month, would not go ahead as planned.
After ousting Afghanistan’s elected government in August, senior Taliban leaders said Afghan women would no longer play cricket, or any other sport.
Under the regime’s hardline reading of Islamic law, women are also barred from going to school and from most other public roles.
Senior Australian cricketers had indicated they would like to see the Test cancelled if the de facto ban on women’s cricket remained in place.
Afghanistan’s men are currently playing in the T20 World Cup but have been warned they face an international ban if the country fails to field a side at the upcoming women’s World Cup in New Zealand.
In a statement, Cricket Australia said it was “committed to support growing the game for women and men in Afghanistan and around the world”.
“Given the present uncertainty, (Cricket Australia) felt it necessary to postpone the Test match until a later time when the situation is clearer.”
Afghan players are expected to be allowed to play in the upcoming Big Bash League season in Australia.
Cricket Australia said it looked forward to “hosting both the Afghanistan women’s and men’s team in the not too distant future”.
Afghanistan all-rounder and T20I captain Mohammed Nabi said he hoped the two countries could still work together on developing Afghan cricket.
“It’s disappointing the Test match isn’t going ahead this year but I’m happy that the match is only postponed and not cancelled,” Nabi said.
Australia’s cricketers are currently gearing up for the Ashes Tests against England, which are set to begin on December 8 in Brisbane.
The loss of the Afghan Test creates a void in Australia’s Ashes build-up, which will be filled by an “internal three-day match opportunity” between the extended squad from December 1 in Brisbane.
“The squad will be selected and announced in mid-November,” Cricket Australia said, adding that England would also play a three-day warm-up match against the England Lions.