Australia pull out of Afghanistan cricket series over Taliban restrictions on women


Australia’s men’s cricket team has withdrawn from an upcoming series of matches against Afghanistan in protest against restrictions imposed by the ruling Taliban on the education and employment of women and girls, a said Cricket Australia (CA) in a statement on Thursday.

The teams were scheduled to play three One Day International (ODI) matches in the United Arab Emirates in March, but CA decided to cancel the series after “extensive consultation” with “several stakeholders, including the Australian government,” the statement said. .

“CA is committed to supporting [and] grow the game for women and men around the world, including in Afghanistan, and will continue to engage with the Afghanistan Cricket Board in anticipation of improving conditions for women and girls in the country,” he added.

In December, the Taliban announced the suspension of university education for all female students. The move follows a decision in March to ban girls from returning to secondary schools, after months-long closures that had been in place since the radical Islamist group took control of Afghanistan in August 2021.

Later that month, the Taliban ordered all local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to bar their female employees from coming to work, warning that failure to comply would result in the revocation of their licenses.

The Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) responded to CA’s decision on Thursday, describing it as “pathetic” and “an attempt to enter the realm of politics and politicize the sport.”

“By prioritizing political interests over the principles of fair play and sportsmanship, Cricket Australia undermines the integrity of the game and damages relations between the two nations,” the statement added.

“The decision to withdraw from the upcoming ODI series against Afghanistan is unfair and unexpected and will have a negative impact on the development and growth of cricket in Afghanistan, as well as on[ing] the Afghan nation’s love and passion for the game.”

The ACB said it was considering what action to take on the matter, including the possibility of writing to the International Cricket Council (ICC) and “rethinking the participation of Afghan players” in Australia’s domestic Twenty20 competition, the Big Bash League (BBL).

ACB’s statement follows comments by prominent Afghan player Rashid Khan.

Khan, who played for the Adelaide Strikers in this year’s BBL, accompanied a statement on Twitter with the words: “Keep the politics out of it.”

“I’m really disappointed to hear Australia pulled out of the series to play us in March,” Khan wrote.

“I am very proud to represent my country and we have made great strides on the world stage. This CA decision takes us back on that journey.

“If playing against Afghanistan is so uncomfortable for Australia, I wouldn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable with my presence in the BBL. Therefore, I will seriously think about my future in this competition.

CA had previously backed out of a proposed test match against Afghanistan which was to be staged in Tasmania in November 2021 due to the Taliban’s ban on women’s sports.

“Driving the growth of women’s cricket around the world is hugely important to Cricket Australia. Our vision of cricket is that it is a sport for all, and we unequivocally support the game for women at all levels,” CA said at the time.

Australian Sports Minister Anika Wells said on Thursday Canberra supported Cricket Australia’s decision.

“The Australian Government welcomes Cricket Australia’s decision to withdraw from the upcoming One Day International men’s series against Afghanistan, following the Taliban’s increased crackdown on women’s and girls’ rights,” she tweeted.

Although the Taliban have repeatedly claimed they will protect the rights of girls and women, the group has done the opposite, stripping away the hard-won freedoms women have fought tirelessly for over the past two decades.

The United Nations and at least half a dozen major foreign aid groups have said they are temporarily suspending operations in Afghanistan following a ban on female NGO workers.


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