Sport

Afghanistan’s first Test against Australia still set for

Plans for Afghanistan’s first Test match against Australia are proceeding at pace after multiple sources confirmed the Taliban’s willingness for the historic fixture to go ahead as scheduled in November.

On Wednesday Hamid Shinwari, chief executive of the Afghanistan Cricket Board, told AFP that “we have got approval to send the team to Australia”.

His confirmation followed Ahmadullah Wasiq, deputy head of the Taliban’s cultural commission, telling the Australian broadcaster SBS on Tuesday that the planned fixtures of the men’s international team “will continue without interruption, and they can play with other international teams … In the future, we want good relations with all countries. When good relations are established, Afghan players can go [to Australia] and they can come here.”

Though Afghanistan’s three-match ODI series against Pakistan, which was due to get under way in Sri Lanka on Friday, was postponed indefinitely as the nation descended into chaos last month because of the lack of commercial flights out of the country, the team are expected to compete in the Twenty20 World Cup, which starts in the United Arab Emirates and Oman next month, before heading to Australia. The under-19 team’s scheduled tour of Bangladesh, due to start later this month, is also expected to go ahead.

A Cricket Australia spokesperson said it was still pushing ahead with plans for the Test, which is due to start in Hobart on 27 November. “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 spokesperson said. “CA will continue to work with the Australian and Tasmanian governments ahead of the Afghanistan team’s arrival planned for later this year.”

Though organised sport was prohibited under the previous Taliban regime Anas Haqqani, a senior Taliban leader, is reported to have met Afghan sportsmen, including members of the cricket team, last month and assured them of the group’s support. “The Taliban don’t have any issue or problem with cricket, and they have told us that we can continue our work as planned,” the ACB’s head of media operations, Hikmat Hassan, told Reuters at the time.

The Shpageeza League, Afghanistan’s domestic Twenty20 competition, remains scheduled for 10-25 September. On Wednesday the 14,000-capacity Kandahar Cricket Stadium, the home ground of Boost Defenders, one of eight teams in the competition, was the site of a Taliban victory rally, with leaders of the organisation sitting in the shade of the players’ dugout.