Cricket Australia chief defends withdrawal from Afghanistan series

Human Rights

Australia opted out of the three-match series, scheduled for March in the UAE.

Cricket Australia’s Chief Executive, Nick Hockley, staunchly defended the decision to withdraw its men’s team from a one-day international series against Afghanistan, citing women’s rights as the primary reason, despite criticism from the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) and its players.

Australia withdrew from the three-match series, slated for March in the United Arab Emirates, citing the Taliban’s further restrictions on women and girls’ education and employment opportunities. This decision was made in order to stand in solidarity with those affected by the oppressive regulations and to demonstrate their commitment to gender equality.

The ACB vehemently denounced the decision as unfair and deplorable in a scathing response, while spinner Rashid Khan declared he was contemplating his future in Australia’s Big Bash League (BBL) and tweeted: “Cricket is the only hope for the nation. Let’s keep politics out of it.”

Afghanistan’s Taliban-led government issued a decree last month prohibiting women from attending universities. Furthermore, girls have been barred from attending high school since March, and have been denied access to parks and gyms. This oppressive measure has had a devastating impact on the education and well-being of Afghan women, who are now deprived of the opportunity to pursue higher education and the right to enjoy recreational activities.

“Basic human rights is not politics,” Hockley said on Friday. “It is clearly a very challenging and sad situation. We did not take this decision lightly and consulted widely including with our government.

“We were hopeful of playing the series and have been in regular dialogue with the Afghanistan Cricket Board, however announcements by the Taliban in late November and late December led to our decision to withdraw from these games.”

Rashid, who plays for the Adelaide Strikers, has previously voiced support for women in Afghanistan since the Taliban seized control. His international team mate Naveen-ul-Haq said he will not play in the BBL “until they stop these childish decisions”.

“We acknowledge and applaud Rashid Khan’s and other Afghanistan cricketers’ comments at the time condemning the Taliban’s decision to ban women from universities,” Hockley added.

“Rashid will always be welcome in the BBL.

“We remain committed to supporting growing the game for women and men around the world and hope that improved conditions for women and girls in Afghanistan means that we can resume bilateral cricket in the not too distant future.”

Afghanistan are the only ICC member who do not have a women’s team.

(With inputs from agencies)

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