England will not arrange fixtures with Afghanistan unless it changes stance on women’s cricket

Afghan women play cricket at the grounds of the stadium in Herat in December 2015
Women play cricket in Afghanistan before the Taliban took power again in 2021 - Getty Images/Aref Karimi

England will not schedule a bilateral series against Afghanistan as long as the Taliban-ruled country continues to refuse to field a women’s team, according to chief executive Richard Gould.

England have never played a bilateral series against Afghanistan and do not have one scheduled, but the two nations’ men’s teams have met regularly at World Cups since 2015. Gould has revealed they would not schedule a series due to the lack of opportunities for women’s cricketers in the country.

Since the Taliban took power again in 2021, the Afghanistan women’s team have been disbanded, with members of the squad living in exile in Australia. Girls are currently only allowed to attend primary school in Afghanistan, with teenage girls and women barred from entering school and university classrooms. Females are not allowed in parks or gyms, with beauty salons shut.

England’s stance follows that of Australia, who have cancelled bilateral men’s fixtures against Afghanistan three times since 2021. Earlier this year they called off three ODIs scheduled to be played in the UAE in August, while they also indefinitely postponed the first meeting between Australia and Afghanistan’s Test teams in 2021.

“We do not currently have any cricket against Afghanistan scheduled in a bilateral series,” Gould told The Cricketer. “And I don’t think we would look to schedule Afghanistan in a bilateral series.”

Gould responded “yes” when asked if this was due to Afghanistan’s attitude towards women’s cricket.

“When the Taliban took over in Afghanistan again, they stopped women doing lots of things, including cricket,” Gould said. “At that point, many of the team escaped from Afghanistan and most of them have ended up in Australia, where they have been lobbying the ICC and other interested parties to try and bring back women’s cricket.”

Cricket Australia have previously stated that they still play against Afghanistan at World Cups because “there is a distinction between playing bilateral series which falls under CA control as compared to playing in a World Cup tournament which is an ICC event and subject to their regulations”.

Afghanistan – whose men’s team’s emergence has been one of the great cricket stories of this century – remain a full member of the International Cricket Council, despite the membership criteria requiring a women’s team and programme.

“The ICC’s view is that they are not able to have an impact on a domestic government’s policy,” said Gould. “As a result of that, certain countries are more likely to take unilateral action.

”We’ve been working on discussions at ICC level with other member countries to understand what action can be taken. I don’t think that there is an appetite for action amongst the majority of ICC members directly against Afghanistan. And therefore the unilateral element kicks in.”

Gould and the ECB will face more difficult decisions in coming months over who to mix with as stakes in teams in the Hundred are sold for private investment. In December, the MCC told the club’s members that the ECB has been speaking to a wide range of potential sources of capital, including sovereign wealth funds.

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