Afghan cricket team arrive in Pakistan

Published: Friday, September 23, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Karachi:A cricket team from Afghanistan, where the sport was once banned by the hardline Taliban regime, arrived in Pakistan for a week-long tour ahead of the Asian Cricket Council trophy.

The 15-member squad's visit to neighbouring Pakistan is the third since 2002 and comes amid a minor cricket revival in the war-torn country, captain Khaliqdad Noori told AFP on Friday.

"Cricket is progressing well in Afghanistan and we hope that in the coming years we will have a very strong team," said Noori, whose brother Allahdad was the first captain of the team and now heads the Afghanistan Cricket Foundation.

"We are here to get prepared for the ACC Trophy next year and hope Pakistan will continue its support for Afghan cricket," Noori told AFP.

During the tour the Afghan team will play against first class teams like Pakistan International Airlines, Dewan Motors and the Pakistan Cricket Board Academy.

Afghanistan featured in the ACC Trophy in Malaysia last year when they won one out of three matches.

Cricket was banned under Afghanistan's hardline Taliban government, but has slowly made a comeback since the toppling of the regime by US-led forces in 2001.

There are now more than 3,500 registered cricketers in Afghanistan and league based events are played in 16 provinces.

"President Hamid Karzai takes a keen interest in cricket and has promised funds and other help for the team which are so much needed for the promotion," said Noori.

Cricket-mad Pakistan has been at the forefront of efforts to help Afghanistan develop a cricket infrastructure, providing them with equipment and allowing them to participate in events.

Afghanistan's cricket team played five one-day games in Pakistan two years ago and featured in Pakistan's first class season in 2002 and 2003.

The International Cricket Council (ICC), the governing body of cricket, gave affliated membership to Afghanistan in 2002 and a year later it earned recognition from the ACC.

ACC development manager Iqbal Sikander toured Afghanistan in August 2003 and pledged all out support for Afghan cricket.

The ACC has plans to invite Aghanistan's under-15, under-17, under-19 and senior teams to its events over the next five years, with tour expenses paid by the council.

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