Afghanistan in Pakistan 2011 May 24, 2011

Nawroz Mangal calls tour a support to Pakistan cricket

ESPNcricinfo staff

Afghanistan captain Nawroz Mangal has said that his side's tour of Pakistan would help in re-opening the gates of international cricket to the country. "This trip of Afghanistan to Pakistan is a support to Pakistani cricket," Mangal told AP.

Afghanistan will play a three-match one-day series against Pakistan A with the first match in Islamabad on May 25, and are the first foreign side to visit Pakistan since the Lahore attacks on Sri Lanka's cricketers and support staff in March 2009.

The series is being played even as Sri Lanka expressed reservations about visiting Pakistan after the PCB sounded out their Sri Lankan counterpart on the possibility of a tour in October.

PCB chairman Ijaz Butt hoped that the Afghanistan tour would pave the way for more foreign teams coming to Pakistan. "We want to send a message to the world that Pakistan is a safe place to play cricket and the people of Pakistan would welcome any team coming here," Butt said.

Apart from doing their bit towards the return of international cricket to Pakistan, Afghanistan are also hoping to get more games against quality opposition, something that hasn't been happening regularly despite their rapid strides in international cricket. Afghanistan have progressed in 2009 from ICC Division Five to Division One and also secured one-day status the same year. They also won the ICC Intercontinental Cup in 2010, and qualified for the 2010 World Twenty20 in the West Indies.

"We are here for ourselves because we don't get international matches as an Associate member," Rashid Latif, Afghanistan coach and former Pakistan wicketkeeper, said.

Afghanistan shocked a second-string Pakistan side in the semi-finals of the Asian Games Twenty20 event in China last year and Mangal said that result proved his team had the ability to beat anyone. "Asian Games was the biggest ever thing that happened in our cricketing history," Mangal said. "Playing against Pakistan A is also the biggest chance for us, we can show talent to the cricketing world."

"We can request the ICC or any other cricketing authority to give us some more matches against Test playing nations and hopefully we will play (the full-strength) Pakistan team one day here in Pakistan as well."

Mangal recalled his days playing cricket during his stay in refugee camps in Pakistan during the Soviet war in the 1980s. "I still remember those days when I was immigrant here during the Soviet war. We learnt cricket here and it's a gift we took back home."

Latif said Afghanistan has at least 120-125 players who compete in regional tournaments in the war-ravaged country. "Out of these at least 30-35 are capable of playing against Associate nations," Latif said. "Not many people have seen us in action on the cricketing field, but I hope we will give good competition to Pakistan A."

Pakistan A will be led by left-arm fast bowler Sohail Tanvir and have international players like Umar Amin and wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed.