Australia’s men’s cricket team has pulled out of a series of upcoming matches against Afghanistan in protest at the ruling Taliban’s restrictions on the education and employment of women and girls, Cricket Australia (CA) said in a statement on Thursday. .
The teams were scheduled to play three One Day International (ODI) games in the United Arab Emirates in March, but CA decided to cancel the series after “extensive consultations” with “several stakeholders, including the Australian government,” according to the statement. .
“CA is committed to supporting (and) growing the game for women and men around the world, including Afghanistan, and will continue to collaborate with the Afghanistan Cricket Board in anticipation of better 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 followed a decision in March to ban girls from returning to secondary schools, following months of closures that had been in place since the hardline Islamist group took control of Afghanistan in August 2021.
Later that month, the Taliban ordered all local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to prevent their 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, calling it “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 is undermining the integrity of the game and damaging the relationship between the two nations,” the statement added.
“The decision to withdraw from playing 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 affecting the Afghan nation’s love and passion for the game.”
The ACB said it was considering what action to take on the matter, including possibly 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). .
The ACB statement came following 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 politics out of it.”
“I am really disappointed to hear that Australia withdrew from the series to play us in March,” Khan wrote.
“I feel very proud to represent my country and we have made great strides on the world stage. This decision by CA takes us back on that journey.
“If playing against Afghanistan is so uncomfortable for Australia, then I wouldn’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable with my presence in the BBL. Therefore, I will seriously consider my future in that competition.”
CA had previously pulled out of a proposed test match against Afghanistan to be held in Tasmania in November 2021 due to the Taliban’s ban on women participating in sports.
“Driving the growth of women’s cricket globally is incredibly important to Cricket Australia. Our vision for cricket is for it to be 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 that Canberra supports Cricket Australia’s move.
“The Australian Government welcomes Cricket Australia’s decision to withdraw from the upcoming men’s One Day International series against Afghanistan, following the growing repression of women’s and girls’ rights by the Taliban,” he tweeted.
Although the Taliban repeatedly claimed they would protect the rights of girls and women, the group has done the opposite, stripping away the hard-won freedoms that 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 will temporarily suspend operations in Afghanistan following a ban on working as NGO employees.