Afghanistan’s cricket players fuming over Australia’s decision

Photo: ACB

Afghanistan’s star cricketer Rashid Khan has threatened to pull out of the Big Bash League in protest over Cricket Australia (CA) canceling the three-match ODI series against his national team in March. 

In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, Rashid said: “I am really disappointed to hear that Australia have pulled out of the series to play us in March. I take great pride in representing my country and we have made great progress on the world stage.

“This decision from CA sets us back in that journey,” he said.

Rashid went on to say that “if playing vs Afghanistan is so uncomfortable for Australia then I wouldn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable with my presence in the BBL. Therefore, I will be strongly considering my future in that competition.”

In a tweet, Rashid said: “Cricket! The only hope for the country. Keep politics out of it.”

Afghanistan’s former captain, Mohammad Nabi, also issued a statement late Thursday condemning the decision by Australia to cancel the series. 

“I strongly condemned the decision of Cricket Australia by pulling [out] of the series .. through Cricket we have shown the world if [the] right opportunity and platform [is] given to Afghans we are no less than the rest of the world.

“Let’s separate sports and politics,” he said, adding that Afghan cricketers are role models and proud ambassadors of the cricketing fraternity. 

These sentiments were shared by many of Afghanistan’s cricketers who unanimously called for politics to be kept out of cricket. Rahmanullah Gurbaz said Australia was taking away the “only one happiness we have. This is a shocking and unacceptable act of CA.”

However, Cricket Australia took the decision in protest over the Taliban banning women from playing sport, and attending school and university. As a nation with full member status, Afghanistan is contractually bound by the International Cricket Council to not only promote and develop women’s cricket in the country, but also to have a women’s cricket team. 

This was however banned by the Taliban shortly after they took control of the country in August 2021.

Widespread reaction

But as the national cricketers issued statements following the decision, women in Afghanistan and around the world applauded Australia for having made the move. 

One cricket fan, Aria Amu, took to Twitter and said: “Thank you Cricket Australia. Great decisions.”

Burqawoman tweeted: “Cricket Australia is taking the lead in the world by standing with Afghan women. That’s the most noble and effective support anyone in the world can give. Thank you Australia.”

Another female cricket fan, from Pakistan, said: “You … idiots – instead of supporting women you are blaming Cricket Australia. They DID A right thing.”

A fan from Bangladesh, tonmoy, meanwhile said: “Well done Cricket Australia. I am sure you have full support from all the Afghan girls. Ignore comments from hypocrites who call it unfair.”

This was in reference to Afghanistan Cricket Board’s statement early Thursday where they said Australia’s decision to cancel the series was “unfair” and “pathetic”. 

The ACB said it was “extremely disappointed and saddened by the pathetic statement of Cricket Australia to withdraw” from the tournament adding that it will “officially write to the International Cricket Council about the issue.”

“Cricket Australia’s decision to withdraw from upcoming matches against Afghanistan is coming after consultation and potential enforcement from the Australian Government which is an unfortunate attempt to enter the realm of politics and politicize the sport,” the statement read.

“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.

ACB said it is closely monitoring the situation and is considering taking action and rethinking the participation of Afghan players in the Big Bash League (BBL).While the ACB said it has “been working to promote cricket in schools and universities,” and using the sport to promote healthy lifestyles and discourage young people from getting involved in drugs and crime, nothing was said about the complete absence of women playing cricket in the country.