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Could a rescheduled Australia-Afghanistan Test be a positive instrument for change?

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Lloyd new author
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5th January, 2022

The Afghanistan men’s Test team were due to play an inaugural Test match against Australia in November 2021 but following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and their announcement that “it was not necessary for women to play cricket”, Cricket Australia advised the match was being postponed indefinitely.

Was this the right decision?

Over the course of the last 100 years or so, international sport has often been used as a political weapon. In 1936, Hitler wanted the Berlin Olympics to showcase German Aryan supremacy; perhaps oversimplified as “blue-eyed, big-headed blondes are best”.

Jesse Owens, one of the greatest Olympians and an Afro-American destroyed this race myth with four gold medals. Within cricket, it was the D’Oliveira affair that caused a major international incident.

Basil D’Oliveira had a Portuguese father and Indian mother. South African-born and raised, he excelled at playing cricket but reached a ceiling, unable to play for the all-white South African Test team. He migrated to the UK, gained citizenship, and quickly rose through the grades to become a regular in the England side.

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With a scheduled England tour of South Africa in 1968, much was done by various parties in both South Africa and England to prevent D’Oliveira’s inclusion in the English touring party. He was selected, albeit as an injury replacement. The South African Prime Minster advised that D’Oliveira would not be welcome and the MCC formally cancelled the tour.


Whilst the world was aware of the apartheid system in South Africa, the D’Oliveira Affair brought the reality home to the UK public and to the wider cricket world.

It led to South Africa being isolated from international cricket until 1991 (when progress had been made in dismantling apartheid), and was instrumental to the wider sporting and cultural bans that were imposed by the international community during the subsequent apartheid years.

In December 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in an attempt to shore up the Afghan communist government. This prompted the US to boycott the 1980 Moscow Olympics, urging other nations to follow suit. Some did, while others sent reduced teams.

In retaliation, the Soviet Union, other Eastern Bloc countries, and others, notably Cuba and Ethiopia, boycotted the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Neither of the Olympic boycotts changed the situation in Afghanistan; the Soviet Union armed forces remained there until February 1989, withdrawing the same year as the Berlin Wall came down (November 1989). Meanwhile, athletes trained, competed and won medals.

In October 2001, following the terrorist attacks of 9-11, the US led an invading force into Afghanistan, with the intention of destroying Al-Qaeda and bringing some stability to the region. During the period of allied forces occupation, Afghanistan became a full International Cricket Council (ICC) member and in doing so received Test status.


The US and allied forced fully withdrew from Afghanistan in August 2021 and the Taliban quickly took over. With the withdrawal, some female athletes managed to escape while others went into hiding. Others won’t have been so lucky. The Taliban has restricted all female sport and is increasing restrictions on female education.

Tuba Sangar had a job as women’s development manager at the Afghanistan Cricket Board (since resigned) and managed to escape to Canada with her family.

When interviewed by Alison Mitchell, BBC commentator for the intercontinental podcast Stumped, Sangar said: “I think the Afghanistan men’s team have done a lot for Afghanistan. Because of them, we know cricket. Because of our men’s team, I know that women should play as well.”

Sangar went on to note that if the Afghanistan’s men’s team were not allowed to compete internationally because of the Taliban preventing women from competing, then everyone loses.

If I was in a position to influence the Australian Cricket Board, I would recommend that they go ahead with the Afghanistan Test match but take every opportunity to promote women’s cricket and women’s rights.

Get Alison Mitchell to provide commentary, Lisa Sthalekar to provide the in -epth analysis and Isa Guha to interview Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Asghar Afghan.

Speak to sponsors and agree to subtle but powerful changes with their slogans.


Education for all women. Sport for all women. That’s better.

Women’s cricket. Just Do It.

Education. Sport. Women. Men. Children. Impossible is Nothing.

Teaching. Learning. Competing. Because you’re worth it.

Encourage supporters to attend with banners that promote women’s cricket.

In short, make sure that every picture of Rashid taking a wicket or every boundary that Asghar scores has a backdrop promoting women’s education and sport.

We want to expand our cricket family and embrace our Afghan cricket brothers but we also want to let our Afghan mothers, sisters and daughters know we are thinking of them, we are doing our best to support them, and we can’t wait for them to join our cricket family, too.