Cricket: Australia withdraws from ODI series against Afghanistan

Australia’s ODI series against Afghanistan in the United Arab Emirates in March has officially been called off after Cricket Australia (CA) decided it was unable to proceed with the fixture. 

Following consultation with several stakeholders including the Australian government, CA announced on Thursday that it would withdraw from the three-match series. 

In a statement, CA explained that the decision followed the Taliban’s recent announcement regarding further restrictions on women and girls’ education and the ban on women working for non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The cricket body stated that it condemned the restrictions on female participation in sport, which the Taliban imposed soon after coming in to power.

“CA is committed to supporting growing 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 improved conditions for women and girls in the country,” the CA statement read.

“We thank the Australian Government for its support on this matter.”

Australia last played an ODI against Afghanistan at the 2019 World Cup.

Afghanistan is the only ICC full member nation without a women’s team, and will be the only full member without a side at the inaugural Women’s U19 T20 World Cup starting on Saturday.

ICC CEO Geoff Allardice said this week that recent developments in Afghanistan were “concerning”, and confirmed the issue would be raised at its next meeting.

“Our board has been monitoring progress since the change of regime,” Allardice said.

“It is a concern that progress is not being made in Afghanistan and it’s something our board will consider at its next meeting in March. As far as we are aware, there isn’t activity at the moment.”

Afghanistan remain the only ICC full member nation without a women’s team // Getty

ICC ODI Super League points were on offer in the UAE, so Australia will forfeit the series and the 30 competition points will be awarded to Afghanistan.

It will, however, be of little concern to the Aussies as they have already secured automatic qualification to the ODI World Cup in India in October by being one of the top eight ranked nations in the Super League.

The series against Afghanistan was to be Australia’s last in the ODI Super League, but they will not be their last ODIs before the World Cup. 

They will play three ODIs (from March 17-22) in India following the four-Test Border-Gavaskar Trophy, five in South Africa in August and September, and three more in India immediately preceding the World Cup in October, but none of these will impact their World Cup qualification.