Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) chief executive Hamid Shinwari has appealed to cricket’s leading teams to offer greater support so their remarkable rise can continue.
Afghanistan, who just over four years ago were playing against Norway and Japan in a minor tournament in Jersey, have made rapid strides forward, qualifying for next month’s ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka, their second successive appearance at the event.
But despite being granted one-day international status in 2009 when the team narrowly failed to qualify for the 50-overs World Cup in the Indian subcontinent, opportunities such as a one-off match against Australia in Sharjah on Saturday have been hard to come by.
“This is only our second match (against a full member) in three years, which is not fair,” Shinwari told Reuters.
“Cricket is more than a game in Afghanistan. It brings hope to the country, we want to improve in the game and we have the capacity to compete with any nation. We’re improving at a greater rate than some of the full members.
“I’m sure if they could support us in having such events, at least five, six or maybe eight one-day internationals in a year, then it would significantly contribute to the game’s improvement.”
Afghanistan’s only other ODI against one of the 10 ICC full members was in February against Pakistan, also at Sharjah, a match in which they competed well before eventually losing by seven wickets.
Shinwari said a greater willingness to play matches against Afghanistan was not the only way leading countries could support the game’s development there.
“We would like international leagues like the IPL (Indian Premier League), the Sri Lanka Premier League, the Bangladesh Premier League, other countries and (English) counties to invite our players to play with them – that would really help improve our players,” he said.
“If they could have such opportunities, I can assure you that in three to five years’ time we will have significant achievements in this field.”
Shinwari said that one million cricketers played the sport within Afghanistan, two international stadiums had been built and there were plans for three more academies.
The security situation at home appears to be the major handicap to development, meaning Sharjah is Afghanistan’s adopted home ground.
But Shinwari said he hoped the ACB’s plans for an Afghan Premier League of Twenty20 cricket in 2014 would help.
“There are two purposes to launching the APL,” he said. “One of them is to encourage international players to play in Afghanistan because we want to convey a message to the world that Afghanistan is secure, particularly in the cricketing area.
“In addition to that, players who are coming into Afghanistan or the APL will make a significant contribution to building community in this war-ravaged country that has been suffering.”