Why did Cricket Australia pull out of Afghanistan tour?

Cricket Australia (CA) has decided not to participate and send their men’s team to Afghanistan for a three-match series that is a part of the ICC Super League in March. This is in lieu of the Taliban further imposing restrictions on women’s rights.

Afghanistan Women's cricket
Afghanistan Women’s cricket

Cricket Australia was in talks with their Government and other stakeholders and it was after consultations, they decided not to participate in the tour. This will mean that they will forfeit 30 points for the series which would have helped maintain their position in the ICC Super League table but it won’t affect their prospects as they have already qualified for the ODI World Cup in India.

The CA issued a statement explaining its stance and said, “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. We thank the Australian Government for its support on this matter.”

Previously, the Australian men’s team pulled out from playing a test in November 2021 owing to the Taliban invasion.

The Taliban has already issued a lot of impositions and curbed women’s rights. The CA also explained, “This decision follows the recent announcement by the Taliban of further restrictions on women’s and girls’ education and employment opportunities and their ability to access parks and gyms”.

They have additionally barred teenage girls from attending secondary schools and women from going to Universities while also pushing women out of jobs in the aid sector and also government jobs which have alerted the world of the dismal state of affairs. Speaking on the issue, ICC CEO Geoff Allardice also remarked that the issues are “concerning” and has assured the issue will be discussed in the next meeting. He added “Our board has been monitoring progress since the change of regime. 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.”

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What is all the more unfortunate is how even the Afghanistan women’s cricket team has been banned from playing the sport under the Taliban. Afghanistan is the only Full Member to have ICC status despite the absence of an operating women’s side. The Afghanistan Cricket Board announced their first contracts for women last year as they sought to develop a team. Since the Taliban reclaimed control of Afghanistan in August 2021, many of the country’s female athletes have gone into hiding and have been facing death threats.

The restriction on sports and sporting activities for women comes amid overwhelming evidence that, despite assurances to the contrary, the Taliban’s attitude toward women has not changed while they were in control during 1996-2001. Women’s cricket has made no progress in Afghanistan more than a year after the Taliban took power, and there are no indicators that it will in the near future, forcing the ICC to address the issue at its next board meeting in March. However, despite their formal efforts to extend its domestic structure and carry cricket to new locations, very little has been done to encourage women to play the game. Men’s cricket has six events across all formats, ranging from age group to senior level. However, little investment has been made in women’s cricket as of yet.

I am a first year postgraduate student pursuing a MA in Media and Communication Studies at Christ University, Bengaluru. I am a podcaster, blogger and an avid cricket fan. When not glued to cricket matches, you can find me submerged in books and thinking about cricket all the time.

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