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Australia reject claims of hypocrisy ahead of crunch Cricket World Cup clash against Afghanistan

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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.

Steve Smith of Australia says he is not qualified to comment on claims of hypocrisy by Afghanistan. Picture: EPA, DEAN LEWINS

Australia star Steve Smith said the decision to let the team play Afghanistan in a crunch World Cup match was “above my pay grade” as Cricket Australia (CA) 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; human rights or two points,” Naveen wrote on Instagram.

Former Australia captain Smith, however, told a pre-match media 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 (today), so it’s not a question for me, it’s far above my pay grade.”

CA had earlier responded to Naveen’s post, with a spokesperson saying: “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.”

Today’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 pool matches so far in the tournament.

Afghanistan captain Hashmatullah Shahidi said he had no interest in looking back before such an important fixture.

“I think right now we have a game tomorrow in the World Cup. If we focus on that, instead of these things, it will be better,” Shahidi said at the Wankhede later on Monday.

Australia still need to win one of their final two group 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.

Smith also revealed on Monday that he had suffered a fresh attack of vertigo, a condition that has affected him several times in recent years. The 34-year-old former Australia captain was hopeful of being fit to face Afghanistan but appeared to suffer further discomfort after batting during net practice on Monday and was seen sitting head bowed, under a canopy, on the outfield.

“I’ve had a bit of vertigo stuff the last day or so, so it’s just been a bit annoying,” Smith told reporters shortly before the training session.

“Occasionally I’ve had a few episodes, so I can tell you it’s not the funniest space to be in, but yeah, I’ll go out and have a hit and hopefully be okay and we’ll see how we go,” he added. If Smith is given the all-clear, it would mean Australia will have all 15 members of their squad available, with Mitchell Marsh having returned to India after the death of his grandfather.

AFP

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