Afghanistan keen to play Zim

LONDON - Rising cricket nation Afghanistan have approached Zimbabwe for a one-day series in the next few months, media reports from Islamabad say.

Having qualified for its first World Cup, Afghanistan needs more support from the traditional Asian cricketing nations in order to develop its national team further, according to a top official of the Afghanistan Cricket Board.

Afghanistan defeated Kenya by seven wickets in a decisive qualifier on Friday to reach the 2015 World Cup, setting off mass celebrations in the country. But ACB chief executive Noor Mohammad Murad criticized the traditional Asian cricket powers on Saturday for failing to help the team over the past years, saying India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have all failed to respond to his requests to set up games.

He said Pakistan is the only Asian country to support the Afghans, despite dealing with its own security problems. Pakistan's second-string team played a one-day series against Afghanistan last year and the Pakistan Cricket Board allowed a team from Afghanistan to play in its domestic Twenty20 tournament.

Murad was especially critical of the Bangladesh Cricket Board.

"I'm very disappointed in the way we have not been provided a chance by Bangladesh," Murad said. "I've been approaching them since one and half years, but no response. I've met their chairman, I've met their COOs (Chief Operating Officers), I mean all their officials. In the meeting I try to convince them but after the meeting nothing happens."

Murad has also approached Sri Lanka through the International Cricket Council without any success while he's also still waiting for a response from India.

"I'm not going to wait anymore and will approach each of these countries again and again, especially Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India because we don't have hope from Bangladesh anymore," Murad said. "We are very disappointed the way Bangladesh has been handling us. I think Afghanistan is in a very good position to play with Bangladesh and Zimbabwe and even beat them in some matches because of the talent we are having."

Pakistan has not hosted any foreign team since gunmen attacked the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore four years ago. Murad sees Afghanistan as a country which could attract large crowds if Pakistan organizes a full-fledged one-day or Twenty20 series against Afghanistan in a city like Lahore.

"If you give proper advocacy to these matches I think hundreds of thousands of (Afghan) refugees living in Pakistan will come and watch the match," he said. "Afghanistan can give a tough time to the Pakistan team especially in ODIs and Twenty20s and you will give a good message to the world that it is still a very good international venue."

Murad said he has presented the idea to both the ICC and Pakistan cricket officials.

"I am still waiting for a response from the Pakistan side, hopefully it will come soon," he said.

The ICC has chalked out a comprehensive plan for both World Cup qualifiers Ireland and Afghanistan which include tours to European countries.

On Saturday, the ICC said in a statement that it will give $1 million to the ACB as preparation fee for the World Cup. The game's governing body also gave $422,000 to the ACB in April as part of its Targeted Assistance and Performance Program, aimed at raising playing standards.

Next year, the ACB is also scheduled to receive further $750,000 in base support through the ICC Development Funding Policy.

The ACB is also in negotiations with Zimbabwe to play a one-day series and Murad hopes that will be finalized in the coming months.

Afghanistan has also tried to play in the Asia Cup a 50-over format tournament for the last four years, but so far they have been kept out of the event. – Agencies

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