Cricket Australia set to scrap Afghan Test

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Cricket Australia will soon have a vacant season-opening spot on its men's schedule to fill after effectively vowing to scrap a landmark Test against Afghanistan because of the Taliban's ban on women's sport.

The first-ever Test between the nations was slated to begin on November 27 in Hobart, providing Tim Paine a chance to play his first Test at home.

The Taliban's return to power placed the Ashes tune-up in doubt, with Cricket Australia (CA) initially vowing to take its lead from the federal government and the International Cricket Council (ICC).

A public declaration from the deputy head of the Taliban's cultural commission Ahmadullah Wasiq, who told SBS his regime would not allow women's sport, then dramatically escalated the matter.

CA released a statement on Thursday, confirming it is ready to cancel the fixture.

"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," it noted.

"Driving the growth of women's cricket globally is incredibly important to Cricket Australia."

The governing body will be keen to lock in a back-up plan soon.

CA could try to bring West Indies, Sri Lanka or another side in as a late replacement but the requirement to quarantine for a fortnight may make that a hard sell.

England are one nation that is certain to have Test players on the ground already, so the governing body may look to get creative with pre-Ashes tour games.

Scheduling what would essentially be an Australia-Australia A match is another obvious option, with selectors having used a similar fixture in 2019 to finalise their squad for that Ashes series.

Complicating that - and all potential plans - is the fact that Twenty20 World Cup members were unlikely to have completed quarantine before the Afghanistan Test started.

Thursday's development suggests next month's proposed T20 tri-series, involving Australia, Afghanistan and West Indies before the World Cup, is also in doubt.

Adelaide Strikers star Rashid Khan and Afghanistan teammates, who will be understandably shattered given their side's remarkable rise to Test status, should still be able to take part in the Big Bash League.

The ICC, which holds the power to revoke Afghanistan's member status, says it will discuss the issue at its next board meeting.

That meeting is set for November, so if the ICC does not expedite a formal vote then Afghanistan will start their T20 World Cup campaign on October 25.

CA, having invested more in women's cricket than any other nation, has made its thoughts clear to the global governing body.

There was increasing political pressure for Australia to take action regarding the Hobart Test, with federal Sports Minister Richard Colbeck and Tasmania Premier Peter Gutwein among those to flag concerns.

The players' union said it "unequivocally endorses" CA's stance.

"What is happening now in Afghanistan is a human rights issue that transcends the game," the Australian Cricketers' Association noted in a statement.

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