The Taliban says it has approved Afghanistan’s cricket side to play a one-off Test match in Tasmania in November.
The match, which is set to begin on November 27, is the first Test between Afghanistan and Australia since the Taliban took control
There is speculation Afghanistan’s full member status could be revoked by the International Cricket Council
ICC regulations require full member countries to have a women’s side, but the Taliban has a history of oppressing women
Uncertainty has swirled around the Test, the first between Afghanistan and Australia since the Taliban took control of the country.
The deputy head of the Taliban’s cultural commission, Admadullah Wasiq, told SBS Pashto that all previously organised matches would “continue without interruption”.
A Cricket Australia spokesman said planning for the Test match — which would take place at Hobart’s Bellerive Oval — is “well underway”.
“There is goodwill between CA and the Afghanistan Cricket Board to make the match happen, which immediately follows the ICC T20 World Cup in the UAE in which the Afghanistan team is due to play,” the spokesman said.
“CA will continue to work with the Australian and Tasmanian governments ahead of the Afghanistan team’s arrival planned for later this year.”
Women’s team key to Test status
Cricket commentator Jim Maxwell said one potential stumbling block to the Test going ahead was that Afghanistan’s full member status could be revoked by the International Cricket Council.
International Cricket Council regulations require full members — the only countries allowed to play Tests — to have a national women’s team.
Grave fears are held for the country’s female population and the fate of Afghanistan’s women’s cricket program remains unclear.
One female player who has fled the country told The Guardian that her fellow players who remained in the country are in a poor state emotionally and physically and too scared to leave their homes.
Wasiq said sporting matches would be permitted, but those taking part should dress in accordance with Islamic law.
But Afghanistan Cricket Board chief executive Hamid Shinwari told the BBC he believes the Taliban will not allow women to play cricket.
“We have kept the salaries and they are on our payroll. If the government decides that we don’t go with the national women’s team, we will have to stop.”
The last time the Taliban was in power, women and girls in Afghanistan were not allowed to attend school or leave their house unless accompanied by a male relative.
Maxwell said he wanted the Test to go ahead as a cricket fan and commentator — but said there had to be “some uncertainty” about the prospect of it proceeding.
“It appears that the new government has supported cricket … and they want the tour to proceed,” he said.
“[But] it depends on a few other things like will the ICC continue to give Afghanistan cricket the nod?
“They’ve had a dispensation for the past four years as now a major cricket nation, that they can continue to pay even though they don’t have a women’s team in competition, and that’s not the rule for everyone else.
“That dispensation would have to continue in the first place and then of course the Australian government would have to say yes to Cricket Australia in allowing Afghanistan to tour.”
Taliban flag flying over Bellerive Oval?
Federal Minister for Sport Richard Colbeck said the Australian government “expects the Taliban to honour its obligations regarding people seeking to leave Afghanistan and uphold human rights”.
“This commitment extends to members of the nation’s sporting community looking to compete internationally, particularly female athletes and teams,” he said.
Senator Colbeck said the status of Test matches is determined by the ICC.
It also remains unclear which flag and national anthem the Afghanistan cricket side would compete under, with Wasiq telling SBS Pashto that everything would be clear once the Taliban had announced its cabinet.
Cricket Australia did not respond to a question about whether it would be comfortable with flying the Taliban’s preferred flag, if the regime opts to change it.
The ICC did not comment on whether it would allow Afghanistan to retain its Test status, but it is understood it is monitoring the situation, and in regular contact with the Afghanistan Cricket Board.