Afghanistan call for ‘politics-free cricket’ after Australia scrap T20s

Afghanistan call for 'politics-free cricket' after Australia scrap T20s

Cricket has surged in popularity inside Afghanistan in recent years, fuelled by triumphs over bigger nations on the international stage. File.
| Photo Credit: Getty Images

Afghanistan cricket bosses on March 20 expressed disappointment that Australia had scrapped a men’s T20 series because of deteriorating women’s rights in the Taliban-ruled country and called for “politics-free cricket”.

Cricket Australia said it had received advice “that conditions for women and girls in Afghanistan are getting worse” and postponed the three-match series scheduled in August, likely to have been hosted by the UAE.

“The Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) expresses disappointment over Cricket Australia’s decision to postpone yet another bilateral series against Afghanistan and reiterates its stance on neutral and politics-free cricket across the globe,” said a statement.

The decision, announced Tuesday, was the third time since 2021, when the Taliban returned to power, that Australia have refused to play Afghanistan outside of international tournaments.

Cricket has surged in popularity inside Afghanistan in recent years, fuelled by triumphs over bigger nations on the international stage.

But under the Taliban government’s brand of Islamic rule, women are effectively barred from the game, as part of a raft of restrictions on women in Afghanistan the United Nations has labelled “gender apartheid”.

The ACB urged the Australian government “not to impose its policies on cricket boards” and “focus on supporting the development of cricket”.

“ACB advocates for keeping cricket distinct from political influence, considering the game’s significance in Afghanistan and its connection to the happiness and joy of the Afghan nation,” the board said.

Before the return of the Taliban, Afghanistan’s cricket board was slowly making progress growing the game among women — even contracting a small number of semi-professional players in 2020. Most of those eventually fled to Australia.

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