Rashid nominates for draft, cools on BBL boycott

Afghan superstar set for seventh Big Bash season despite comments over Australia's ODI series withdrawal

The lure of a seventh season in the Big Bash League looks to have proved irresistible for Rashid Khan, with the Afghan spin whiz to be unveiled as one of the most high-profile nominations for this year's draft.

Rashid, the world's top-ranked T20 international bowler, appears to have cooled his stance since threatening in January that he was "strongly considering" not returning to the KFC BBL in protest over Cricket Australia cancelling a scheduled ODI series against Afghanistan.

Rashid has played every season with the Adelaide Strikers since bursting onto the scene as a 19-year-old to be the leading wicket-taker in BBL|07 and was picked second in last year's inaugural BBL draft, with Strikers using their retention rights to hold onto him after an attempted poach from the Melbourne Stars.

The Strikers have pick two in this year's BBL Draft, to be held on September 3, and are again expected to take the Afghan leg-spinner, who is set to be available up until his departure for a T20 league in South Africa.

That tournament, where Rashid plays for the Mumbai Indians-owned Cape Town franchise, starts on January 10, meaning if he is retained by the Strikers, Rashid could play up to eight games.

Rashid celebrates with Strikers coach Jason Gillespie after beating the Hurricanes last season // Getty

CA decided to withdraw its men's team from a scheduled three-match series in the UAE in March, citing the Taliban's ban on women and girls' education and employment in Afghanistan. CA stated the decision to opt out of the tour was made in consultation with the Australian government, but that players from the nation were welcome in the BBL.

Rashid, who had already finished his BBL stint when the ODI series was cancelled, lead an angry reaction from Afghanistan officials and players, with the spinner taking to social media to voice his protest.

"I am really disappointed to hear that Australia have pulled out of the series to play us in March," Afghanistan T20 captain Rashid said in his statement at the time.

"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."

While Rashid is the most high-profile Afghan star, he is not the first from the country to have committed to the BBL this season – Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Izharulhaq Naveed have already been publicly announced as nominations for this year's draft, as has Shafiqullah Ghafari.

Mujeeb, who has previously played for the Brisbane Heat, was drafted by the Melbourne Renegades last summer at pick No.9, while Izharulhaq was pick No.28 for the Sydney Sixers.

Afghanistan remain the only ICC full member nation without a women's team.

The Taliban seized control of the Asian nation in September 2021 and immediately placed restrictions on female participation in sport, which CA condemned.

That lead to CA cancelling a one-off Test scheduled for November 2021, and then this year's ODI series in March.

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The International Cricket Council's CEO Geoff Allardice said developments in Afghanistan were "concerning" in the wake of the Taliban takeover, and the ICC set up a working group to investigate the situation but is yet to take any other action.

Afghanistan was granted full member status of the ICC in 2017, alongside Ireland. Under the ICC's constitution, the proviso for being a full member includes criteria such as to "have satisfactory women's pathway structures in place" and to "have a sustained and sufficient pool of players to support strong and consistent national level selection" of women's teams.

Elsewhere, Dubai-based officials have confirmed the lucrative ILT20 will begin on January 19 next year, allowing most of the BBL's overseas stars to see out the majority of the Australian regular season.

David Warner is among those to have signed up for the competition, however he would only be able to play if cleared by CA and in matches that do not clash with BBL or national commitments.

Australia's men's team have three ODIs and three T20Is – which will form important T20 World Cup preparations – against the West Indies at home starting on February 2.