Australia has postponed a first-ever cricket Test match against Afghanistan, amid fears the Taliban group has banned women from playing the sport.
Cricket authorities said on Friday that it had decided the inaugural men’s Test match, to be played in the Australian city of Hobart this month, would not go ahead as planned.
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Senior Australian cricketers have indicated they would like to see the matches cancelled if the de facto ban on women’s cricket remained in place.
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.”
It said it looked forward to “hosting both the Afghanistan women’s and men’s team in the not too distant future”.
The loss of the Afghan Test scheduled for November 27 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.
The decision followed a report by Australian broadcaster SBS which quoted a Taliban representative as saying cricket was “not necessary” for women.
Australia’s Minister for Sport Richard Colbeck said at the time the Taliban’s position was “deeply concerning”.
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.
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.
Afghan players are expected to be allowed to play in the upcoming Big Bash League season in Australia.