Australia cancels T20 cricket series with Afghanistan citing deteriorating conditions for women.

Australia announced on Tuesday the cancellation of a T20 men’s cricket series against Afghanistan slated for later this year, citing the worsening situation for women in the Taliban-ruled country.

Cricket Australia stated that it had received concerning advice indicating that conditions for women and girls in Afghanistan were deteriorating rapidly. Consequently, the three-match series scheduled for August at a neutral venue has been postponed indefinitely.

Despite cricket’s burgeoning popularity within Afghanistan, fueled by notable victories over prominent cricketing nations, the Taliban’s restrictive interpretation of Islamic law effectively bars women from participating in the sport.

Cricket Australia reaffirmed its commitment to promoting female participation in cricket globally, marking the third instance since 2021 where it has declined to engage in cricketing activities with Afghanistan outside of international tournaments. Previously, Cricket Australia cancelled a one-off Test in 2021 following the Taliban’s resurgence to power.

In 2023, Australia withdrew from a three-match one-day international series in the UAE, prompting criticism from the Afghanistan Cricket Board in Kabul and threats of boycott from prominent Afghan cricketer Rashid Khan regarding Australia’s Big Bash League.

Prior to the Taliban’s return, Afghanistan’s cricket board had been making gradual strides in expanding the game among women, even contracting a handful of semi-professional players in 2020, most of whom later sought refuge in Australia.

Since the Taliban seized control in August 2021 and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, they have implemented stringent measures, including banning teenage girls from secondary schools, women from universities, and imposing restrictions on women’s mobility and attire.

The decision marks another setback for cricketing relations between Australia and Afghanistan, who last faced off at the 50-over World Cup in India, where Australia emerged victorious on the path to lifting the trophy.