Rashid Khan divides cricket world after staggering call to 'quit BBL'

BBL fan favourite Rashid Khan's ultimatum in response to Australia cancelling an ODI series against Afghanistan has sparked a lively debate.

Rashid Khan celebrates with a teammate after taking a wicket for the Adelaide Strikers in the BBL.
Rashid Khan, one of the BBL's most popular players, has threatened to boycott the league over Australia's cancellation of an upcoming ODI series against Afghanistan. (Photo by Matt King - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

Rashid Khan's threat to quit the BBL over the Cricket Australia's decision to withdraw from an upcoming ODI series against Afghanistan has divided the cricket world. Reactions to the Cricket Australia decision have been mixed with another Afghanistan cricketer, Nazeem Ul-Haq, joining Khan in his opposition to the move.

The series in Afghanistan, which had been set to commence in the United Arab Emirates in March, was called off after Cricket Australia raised concerns about he Taliban's ban on university education for girls in Afghanistan. They said the decision was made after consultation with the federal government, however Khan labelled the move 'disappointing'.

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"I am really disappointed to hear that Australia have pulled out of the series to play us in March," Rashid said in a statement. "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.

"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."

Khan's stance was backed not only by countryman Naveen, but also England cricket great Michael Vaughan. In his own statement, Naveen labelled the cancellation of the series 'childish'.

"Time to say won't be participating in big bash after this until they stop these childish decisions," he said. "When a country is going through so much in place of being supportive you want to take the only reason of happiness from them."

The Afghanistan Cricket Board called CA's statement "pathetic", saying it would write to the ICC over the issue and accusing the Australians of "prioritising political interests over the principles of fair play and sportsmanship". It also said Australia was "undermining the integrity of the game and damaging the relationship between the two nations" and reinforced Rashid's stance by saying it would "rethink the participation of Afghan players in the Big Bash League" if CA did not overturn its decision.

Rashid Khan, pictured here in action for the Adelaide Strikers in the BBL.
Rashid Khan in action for the Adelaide Strikers in the BBL. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

Rashid Khan's BBL ultimatum leaves cricket world divided

If Afghan players do pull out of the BBL, it will leave a big gap to fill as players like Mohammad Nabi, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Qais Ahmad, Mujeeb ur Rahman and Izharulhaq Naveed have distinguished themselves in recent years. Their T20I captain Rashid, though, has been their flagbearer at the Strikers, with over 400 runs and nearly 100 wickets to his name.

Not everyone was in agreement about his boycott threat, with many arguing CA was justified in the decision, regardless of how disappointing it was. CA had previously cancelled an Afghanistan fixture over the Taliban government's policies towards women, a one-off Test scheduled in November 2021.

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In a tweet to the accounts of Cricket Australia, the BBL and ACB officials, Rashid added: "Cricket! The only hope for the country. Keep politics out of it." The brilliant allrounder played eight matches for Strikers this season before going to play in the SA20 league in South Africa and wasn't expected to return to Australia this season.

Former Afghan international Aftab Alam added: "Dear Cricket Australia! Cricket is a sport and it always separate from politics, that's the 2nd time that cancelling the matches with ACB, its unfair that a cricket playing nation like Australia doing injustice like that. Our players are the beauty of your cricket #BBL."

In a statement released on Thursday, CA said the decision followed recent restrictions placed on women's and girls' education and employment opportunities by the Taliaban, as well as their ability to access parks and gyms. CA 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."

Australia cited similar reasons for cancelling a one-off Test match against Afghanistan that was supposed to be played in November 2021 in Hobart. Last month the Taliban banned women from completing higher education, having already cracked down on their attendance at gyms and parks.

With AAP

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