The Cricket Australia (CA) board has made a bold and surprising decision of pulling out of the scheduled 3 match ODI series against Afghanistan. Cricket Australia arrived at this conclusion by issuing an official statement on 12th January, 2024 when the Taliban decided to tighten the restrictions imposed on the women and girls education and employment opportunities.
This series was presumed to be held at the neutral venue of the United Arab Emirates during late March. Following the tour of India, Australia was slated to play Afghanistan in March 2024, which was part of the ICC Super League tournament.
Cricket Australia’s Statement: –
Cricket Australia in its statement clarified that this decision to withdraw from the series was made by them in consultation with key stakeholders which also comprised of the Australian Government. The CA laid emphasis on the fact that the Taliban had further deprived the women and girls of their education and employment rights. Their ability to access public places like parks and gyms have also been curtailed by the Taliban.
Following the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, in September 2021, the Taliban took control of the country and promptly imposed restrictions on female participation in sport, which CA condemns.
The interest of Cricket Australia lies in improving and supporting the game of cricket for men and women across the globe including Afghanistan. The Australian Government also strives to collaborate with the Afghanistan Cricket Board in order to enhance the lifestyle and basic conditions of females in Afghanistan. The Afghanistan Board too acknowledged the support shown by the Australian Government in this matter.
International Cricket Council (ICC) agenda: –
Afghanistan is the only full-time member nation that does not have a women’s cricket team and will not be participating in the Women’s U-19 World Cup which is commencing in mid – January 2024. The International Cricket Council (ICC) also took notice and voiced its concern over the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.
An ICC representative is of the opinion that the ICC is also committed in ensuring safe playing conditions to both men and women cricketers in Afghanistan. ICC is keeping a close eye on the developments taking place in Afghanistan and will bring up this issue in their next meeting to come up with a solution. They will also look to willingly join hands with other sports organizations globally that match the interests of the ICC and are aiming to bring back cricket in Afghanistan.
The effect of Australia’s withdrawal: –
Afghanistan will be awarded the 30 available points of the ICC Super League tournament, while Australia will automatically lose the series. Australia has already qualified automatically for the World Cup in India in October, so this won’t matter to the five-time ODI World Cup champions.
This is for the second time in two years that CA has called off a bilateral series against Afghanistan owing to the rigid policies imposed by the Taliban government on the women of their country. A one-off Test match which was to be played between them in Hobart was also postponed in November 2021.
However, the Australian Cricket team did play Afghanistan in the recent T20 World Cup which was held in 2022.
Australia and Afghanistan are expected to battle out each other twice again in the upcoming Future Tours cycle, with three T20 Internationals which are scheduled for a neutral venue in August 2024 and Afghanistan’s tour of Australia for one Test and three T20 Internationals which is set for August 2026.
But the paramount question still remains a mystery whether this rift will subside and come to a conclusion or CA will continue to withdraw from the bilateral series against Afghanistan which will be held in the near future.