Afghanistan look to Pakistan for growth

Umar Farooqafghanistan

Afghanistan will attend a four-week conditioning camp in Pakistan ahead of their international fixtures against Scotland in March. The Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) is also contemplating a long-term plan to make Pakistan the national team’s base for the next five years.

During their camp at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore, Afghanistan will train under the supervision of the PCB’s coaches besides their own head coach Kabir Khan. Their preparations include a series of 12 matches against various regional teams and Pakistan A.

Afghanistan have ODI status till 2015 and have been using Sharjah Cricket Stadium as their home ground since 2010 due to a lack of cricketing infrastructure in the country. They are now looking to shift base to Pakistan.

“The idea is play and train with the quality cricketing structure in Pakistan,” Kabir Khan, the Afghanistan coach, told a press conference at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. “Sharjah gave us basic facilities but unfortunately we didn’t find quality cricket to develop with. We need quality programmes and Pakistan, with a rich cricketing background, can help us. Apart from the cricketing aspect, the cost of being in Sharjah is a lot more than here in Pakistan.

“We are in process of building our infrastructure (in Afghanistan) and have two stadiums as well. But we don’t have academies, if we have academies then we don’t have specialised coaches. In Pakistan we can find the quality coaches and quality teams to play with. We are here with the top 22 cricketers from Afghanistan including the budding talent from the Under-19 circuit. Only three of our top cricketers – Shapoor Zadran, Mohammad Nabi and Samiullah Shenwari – (are not here) have gone to play in Bangladesh Premier League.”

Afghanistan will be making their third trip to Pakistan in the last two years, having lost a one-day series 3-0 to a second-string Pakistan side in May 2011 followed by their participation in a domestic Twenty20 competition in Karachi.

The talks between the PCB and the ACB about a comprehensive development programme for Afghanistan cricketers in Pakistan are currently at a preliminary stage but both boards have ‘verbally’ agreed to a long-term deal.

“We are working out a deal that will help Afghanistan’s cricketers in their development,” said Intikhab Alam, the PCB director for game development. “Another idea in the pipeline is to induct their team in our domestic one-day and Twenty20 tournaments, as that would be a good opportunity for their development process.”

Afghanistan last competed in the Asian Cricket Council Elite Trophy in October, finishing in third place. Their next international fixture is against Scotland, a two-ODI series at Sharjah Stadium, before taking them on in the ICC World Cricket League Championship.

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent
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