Afghanistan Cricket Board chairman Azizullah Fazli claims women in the country could still be allowed to play cricket.
Fazli said they would outline how this would happen “very soon”, adding that all 25 of the women’s team members remained in Afghanistan and had chosen not to leave on evacuation flights.
“We will give you our clear position on how we will allow women to play cricket,” he told SBS Radio on Friday. “Very soon, we will give you good news on how we will proceed.”
His comments appear to contradict the deputy head of the Taliban’s cultural commission, Ahmadullah Wasiq, who told the same broadcaster on Wednesday that it was “not necessary” for women to play sport.
Those remarks had Australia threatening to cancel a historic maiden men’s Test between the two countries, set to take place in Hobart in November.
Australian Test captain Tim Paine turned up the heat on Friday, saying he believed teams could pull out of next month’s T20 World Cup in protest, or boycott playing Afghanistan.
In an overnight statement, the Afghanistan Cricket Board urged Australia not to punish its men’s team over the Taliban’s apparent ban, saying it was “powerless to change the culture and religious environment of Afghanistan”.
“Do not isolate us and avoid penalising us,” it added.
Cricket Australia said in brief comments on Saturday that it remained in regular dialogue with the Afghanistan Cricket Board and that “we made our position very clear in the statement”.
It was referring to a statement on Thursday in which it supported “the game unequivocally for women at every level”, adding that it would have “no alternative” but to cancel the Hobart Test if the Taliban banned women.
Under ICC regulations, nations with Test status must also have an active women’s team.
Afghanistan’s position as a full member was set to be discussed at the ICC’s next board meeting in November, but Australian media said the governing body had brought it forward to within the next fortnight.
Despite recent reports that many of the women’s team were in hiding in Kabul and that members of the Taliban had come looking for them, Fazli insisted they were safe.
“The women cricket coach Diana Barakzai and her players are all safe and living in their home country,” he told SBS. “Many countries have asked them to leave Afghanistan, but they have not left Afghanistan and, at the moment, they are in their places.”
© Agence France-Presse