Taming the Taliban: Australia cancels test match against Afghanistan


New Delhi: Afghanistan Cricket Board asked Cricket Australia to reconsider its decision to cancel the one-off test in November as the Taliban banned women from playing sport.

CEO Hamid Shinwari expressed disappointment over the cancellation of the Australia-Afghanistan Test match scheduled for November 27.

The CEO in a statement said: “It was with shock and immense disappointment that the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) received the sudden and unexpected news from Cricket Australia of the potential cancellation of the Australia-Afghanistan Cricket Test Match scheduled for November 27. We believe there is an alternative to cancelling this significant, history-making, Test match. “We accept that Cricket Australia (CA) sees cricket as ‘a sport for all and we support the game unequivocally for women at every level’. We understand, too, why ‘if recent media reports that women’s cricket will not be supported in Afghanistan are substantiated’, CA might believe they have ‘no alternative’ but to refuse to host the scheduled Test match. We believe, however, that there is an alternative.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as of August 2021 is our new government and has appointed an interim cabinet. The whole country is in flux and transition while the new government sets it’s policies and priorities. The development of women’s cricket has been slow in Afghanistan, just as it was for other more traditional cultures: India in the 1970s; in Pakistan in the 1990s when women’s cricket was at first declared illegal and players had death threats; in Sri Lanka in the late 1990s; and in Bangladesh not until the early 2000s.

“Nonetheless, there has been a quiet but significant development of women’s cricket over the past 10 years in girls-only schools where cricket is an integral part of the health education process. Since the ACB joined the International Cricket Council (ICC) and through our fast growth through affiliate, associate and to full membership, the ICC has been aware of our cultural and religious environment. It has taken a balanced, diplomatic, sensitive and considerate approach as we have worked to develop every aspect of the game of cricket in our country despite the situations we have faced.

“We believe that the ICC has had the forethought to recognise and accept that we have been doing all we can to grow cricket in the traditional cultural, religious and changing political environments of our country. The alternative to cancellation of the Test match would be for CA to take the same approach as the ICC. A considered, balanced, ‘cricket diplomacy’ would be far more productive for Afghanistan and for cricket than a sudden ‘knee jerk’ reaction. CA need to know that the comments of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan spokesperson regarding women’s participation in cricket are not substantially different to the ACB’s cultural and religious environment during the Karzai and Ghani governments over the last 20 years. We believe that the ICC is fully aware of this, although it seems CA is not.

The ACB is powerless to change the culture and religious environment of Afghanistan. If the CA decides to cancel the Test match and isolate the Afghan men’s national team, it will have no impact upon those cultural and religious values as they stand. The spokesman for the government has unequivocally stated this. 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. Afghanistan’s young people see the national cricket team as heroes. The national players unite our country and build peace and pride.