Steve Smith says the decision to let Australia play Afghanistan in a crunch World Cup match is “above my pay-grade” as Cricket Australia faced accusations of “double-standards”.
Earlier this year, CA scrapped a three-match ODI series against Afghanistan on the grounds the Taliban, who regained power in 2021, had placed fresh limits on education and work opportunities for Afghan women and girls, including female cricketers.
In the run-up to Tuesday’s high-stakes match in Mumbai, Afghanistan fast bowler Naveen-ul-Haq took to social media to suggest there was an element of hypocrisy in CA abandoning the one-day games but going ahead with a World Cup match where it had something to lose.
“Refusing to play the bilateral series, now it will be interesting to see cricket Australia stand in the World Cup #standards #human rights or 2 points,” Naveen wrote on Instagram.
Former Australia captain Smith, however, told a pre-match press conference at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium on Monday: “We obviously played against Afghanistan in the T20 World Cup at home recently and we’re playing tomorrow so it’s not a question for me, it’s far above my pay grade.”
Cricket Australia had earlier responded to Naveen’s post, with a spokesperson telling News Corp Australia: “CA made the decision not to proceed with the three-match ODI series against Afghanistan in March following the announcement by the Taliban of further restrictions on women’s rights including education and employment opportunities and the access to parks and gymnasiums.
“There is a distinction between playing bilateral series against Afghanistan which falls under CA control as compared to playing in a World Cup tournament which is an ICC event and subject to their regulations.”
Tuesday’s World Cup match has plenty of significance for both sides, with emerging nation Afghanistan still in contention for a semi-final place after winning four of their seven league matches so far during the tournament.
Meanwhile five-time champions Australia still need to win one of their final two league games, against Afghanistan and Bangladesh, to secure a place in the knockout stage.
There have been boycotts and walkovers at previous World Cups, with both Australia and the West Indies forfeiting matches in Sri Lanka during the 1996 edition on security grounds.
England also refused to play a match against 2003 co-hosts Zimbabwe, citing safety concerns, with the lost points contributing to their early exit from that edition.
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