Peshawar to host tournament for Afghanistan cricketers
Rashid Latif, the Afghanistan coach, hopes a tournament arranged in Pakistan's border city of Peshawar will unearth new talent for his side. The tournament will feature six teams named after provinces in Afghanistan, with each team featuring three players from the national side.
Afghanistan have become the fastest-rising Associate team after refugees escaping years of war fled to Pakistan and discovered a love for cricket. "We are playing a tournament of three-day matches in Peshawar followed by a Twenty20 and then a one-day tournament, and I hope these events will help us find more players," Latif told AFP.
Latif, the former Pakistan wicketkeeper, took over as Afghanistan coach last year and helped them win the four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup, before guiding them to a shock win over Pakistan in the Asian Games Twenty20 semi-finals.
In recent years Afghanistan has leapt up to Division One in the World Cricket League, which gave them one-day status, and they have since qualified for the World Twenty20 held in the West Indies last year. Latif hopes that the new tournament will help secure the progress the country has made.
"We have also included the Afghanistan Under-19 team so that they can prepare for the qualifying round of the junior World Cup," Latif said.
Afghanistan's Under-19 team won an Asian qualifying event in the UAE earlier this year and stands a good chance of qualifying for the Under-19 World Cup in Australia next year.
Ahmed Taqseem, who is on the Afghanistan Cricket Board's technical committee, felt the facilities available in Pakistan will help the Afghanistan side develop.
"The facilities provided in Peshawar are world-class so playing here will give our players a chance to improve and this is a great help from Pakistan," he said. "We realise that in order to improve at an international level we need to strengthen our domestic setup and we are endeavouring to do that."
Cricketing relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan are strong, with a six-member delegation from the Afghanistan Cricket Board meeting PCB chairman Ijaz Butt on Friday. Butt pledged that Pakistan would provide any support needed to develop Afghanistan cricket and appointed Amir Nawab as a coordinator for Afghanistan.