Kabul : Afghanistan’s fairytale rise in world cricket could this week see them acquire coveted Test status, a massive boost for a nation long divided by war and riven by ethnic rivalries.
No longer rank minnows, Asghar Stanikzai’s team are up for consideration following their victories over Ireland in the Intercontinental Cup in March, paving the way for their potential entry into cricket’s elite.
Both Afghanistan and Ireland are bidding to become the 11th and 12th nations to join the Test club, nearly two decades after their immediate predecessors Bangladesh, if confirmed by the International Cricket Council (ICC) at a meeting in London.
“A committee is working inside the cricket board, and we will work on our proposal to present it to the ICC in the future, and hopefully full membership and Test status are on the way,” chairman of the Afghan cricket board, Atef Mashal told AFP during a recent interview.
Unlike the sport’s other major players, fghanistan was never a colony of the British Empire.
Instead many Afghans’ first contact with the sport took place during the 1980s and 1990s, as refugees who had fled to Pakistan to escape the Soviet invasion.
Cricket struggled under the hardline Islamist Taliban, who viewed sports as a distraction from religious duties — and famously shaved the heads of a visiting Pakistani football team as punishment for wearing shorts. But recent successes, particularly in last year’s ICC World Twenty20, have further raised the country’s profile. Spinners Rashid Khan, who idolises former Pakistan international Shahid Afridi, and Mohammad Nabi both made their mark in the Indian Premier League. Khan was sixth-highest wicket-taker in his debut IPL with 17 scalps.
Ireland to get Test status too
They have beaten West Indies, England and Pakistan and now Cricket Ireland are targetting London on Thursday when they expect to be given Test match status by the International Cricket Council. In February, the ICC agreed “in principle” that this week’s meeting in London had “the potential to include additional Full Members (Ireland and Afghanistan subject to both meeting Membership criteria)”.