Cricket Australia said they will have to cancel the historic maiden Test between Australia and Afghanistan after the newly installed Taliban government said that women will be banned from playing sport in the Islamic nation.
The governing body said the first ever men's Test between the two nations was under serious threat after the deputy head of the Taliban's cultural commission, Ahmadullah Wasiq, reportedly said women would not play cricket or any other sport under the new regime.
"Islam and the Islamic Emirate do not allow women to play cricket or play the kind of sports where they get exposed. In cricket, they might face a situation where their face and body will not be covered. Islam does not allow women to be seen like this," Wasiq told Australian broadcaster SBS on Wednesday.
"It is the media era, and there will be photos and videos, and then people watch it.
"We have fought for our religion so that Islam is to be followed. We will not cross Islamic values even if it carries opposite reactions. We will not leave our Islamic rules."
The Taliban said shortly after taking power that the schedule for the Afghanistan men's team would not be interrupted, leading Cricket Australia to announce earlier this month it still hoped to host the landmark match on November 27. On Thursday, Cricket Australia said driving the growth of women's cricket globally was "incredibly important" to the organisation.
"Driving the growth of women’s cricket globally is incredibly important to Cricket Australia. Our vision for cricket is that it is a sport for all and we support the game unequivocally for women at every level," the statement said.
"If recent media reports that women’s cricket will not be supported in Afghanistan are substantiated, Cricket Australia would have no alternative but to not host Afghanistan for the proposed Test Match due to be played in Hobart. We thank the Australian and Tasmanian Governments for their support on this important issue."
Australia's Federal Sports Minister Senator Richard Colbeck said the Afghanistan athletes would remain welcome in Australia but not "under the flag of the Taliban".
"The Taliban's attitudes towards women and their individual rights should not be accepted by the international sporting community. Excluding women from sport at any level is unacceptable," he told ABC Radio.
"We urge international sport authorities, including the International Cricket Council, to take a stand against this appalling ruling. At the end of the day, International Cricket is controlled by the ICC and it's not just about this Test match. The ICC is going to have to make a decision about Afghanistan's membership."
In a statement released overnight, the International Cricket Council said: "The ICC is committed to the long-term growth of women's cricket and despite the cultural and religious challenges in Afghanistan, steady progress has been made in this area since Afghanistan's admission as a Full Member in 2017. The ICC has been monitoring the changing situation in Afghanistan and is concerned to note recent media reports that women will no longer be allowed to play cricket.
In the wake of those comments, the Australian Cricketers Association said: "What is happening now in Afghanistan is a human rights issue that transcends the game of cricket. And while we would love to see players such as Rashid Khan play against Australia, hosting this Test Match cannot be considered if that same opportunity to play the game is denied to Roya Samim and her team-mates."
(With inputs from AFP)