A leading human rights activist has taken aim at spin star Rashid Khan for his condemnation of Cricket Australia’s decision to withdraw from an upcoming one-day series against Afghanistan.
As the decision sparked division among the cricketing world, with threats from Afghan players and their cricket board to boycott the BBL in protest, Khan was lashed for his statement.
CA’s decision was in direct response to the ruling Taliban’s ban on women and girls going to high school or university and from playing organised sport.
Afghanistan is the only full member of the International Cricket Council not to have a women’s team, a prerequisite for every other country, including Australia.
Its own lengthy, 400-word response in which the Afghanistan Cricket Board labelled CA’s move “pathetic” didn’t once mention women’s cricket.
Last November, several players visited the Afghanistan Prime Minister’s office and praised the Taliban’s support of the men’s team.
Khan, who has taken nearly 100 BBL wickets as a headliner for the Adelaide Strikers, said CA’s decision would force him to rethink his future in the competition.
And as other Afghanistan players also lashed CA, Sharhazad Akbar, the executive director at Afghan human rights organisation Rawadari, called out Khan for failing to recognise the core issue of the lack of rights for women.
“Rashid you are a hero to millions of us, which is why I take issue with this tweet. How is cricket bringing hope when half the population are deprived of the right to education, when the Quranic command “Iqra” is being violated? Where is hope for Afg girls & women?” he tweeted.
Leading cricket commentator Isha Guha called the situation “complex” but questioned how the men’s team could be supported if there was no progress for women in the nation.
“Opinions will be different but I just hope the Afghan women who aren’t allowed to play/have no voice for fear of safety are thought of in this,” Guha said on Twitter.
“The men playing has offered hope to the nation & it’s sad when they can’t play too but every time they step out is a reminder to the women that they cannot. Can the ICC offer a neutral banner? The understanding is that funding has not been withdrawn but how are the women being helped?”
In December last year, the Taliban placed a ban on women attending high school and university and has banned women participating in sport since returning to power in 2021.
It’s the second time in two years that CA has cancelled a bilateral fixture with Afghanistan due to the Taliban government‘s policies on women following the postponement of the one-off Test that was scheduled to be played in Hobart in November 2021.
Australia is slated to meet Afghanistan twice more in the next Future Tours cycle, with three T20Is scheduled at a neutral venue in August 2024.
The Afghanistan Cricket Board also threatened their players’ participation in the BBL in their response to CA’s move.
“Afghanistan Cricket Board is extremely disappointed and saddened by the pathetic statement of Cricket Australia to withdraw from Afghanistan’s home three-match ODI series in March and will officially write to the International Cricket Council about the issue,” it said in a statement.
“The decision to withdraw from playing the upcoming ODI series against Afghanistan is unfair and unexpected and will have a negative impact on the development and growth of cricket in Afghanistan as well as will affect the love and passion of the Afghan nation for the game.
“The Afghanistan Cricket Board is closely monitoring the situation and is considering taking action, including officially writing to ICC and rethinking the participation of Afghan players in the Big Bash League if the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan’s home series is not overturned.”