Marylebone Cricket Club March 20, 2006

MCC to take on Afghanistan

Cricinfo staff

Cricket has flourished in war-torn Afghanistan © AFP
Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) is to conclude its current tour of India with a first-ever match against Afghanistan.

The fixture, described by an MCC spokesman as "pioneering and historic, will take place at the Police Ground in Mumbai on Thursday. MCC will be led by the former England and Middlesex captain, Mike Gatting.

"I am delighted to have the opportunity to lead MCC in this historic game against Afghanistan," said Gatting. "Cricket has developed rapidly in the country over the last few years and MCC is keen to assist this process - as it is in all emerging cricket-playing nations."

Cricket's popularity in Afghanistan has surged since many of the refugees who fled from the country in the early 1980s, after the Soviet invasion, started to return from Pakistan - where they first saw the game and started to play and follow it.

In the last decade, the membership of the Afghanistan Cricket Federation has grown more than twenty-fold - from 500 to 12,000 members. The Afghan team, whose travel is being sponsored by MCC, will be flying into Delhi before transferring to Mumbai by train. The British Embassy in Kabul and the World Cricket Academy in Mumbai have also played key roles in facilitating this match.

Explaining the background to the fixture, MCC's president, Robin Marlar, said: "This match is the culmination of many months of hard work. It all started several years ago when an MCC Member, Mark Scrase-Dickens, raised the issue of Afghan cricket at a Club AGM.

"Subsequently, at the Asian Cricket Council in London last summer, I was asked to help and we have been so pleased with the contributions made by the World Cricket Academy in Mumbai and, of course, the authorities in Afghanistan who have been swift to seize the opportunity."

"This is merely the beginning," added Marlar. "Because of the intensity of interest in the game in Afghanistan, there is no reason why that country should not progress year upon year with Bangladesh - the newest of the Test-playing nations - as the example to follow."

MCC also played a key role in the development of cricket in Bangladesh in the months and years following their war of liberation in 1971, with representative sides being sent to rekindle interest in the game. In 2002, MCC joined forces with Slazenger and the RAF to equip an Afghan XI and an international peacekeepers' team for a match in Kabul.

MCC squad Mike Gatting (capt), Tony Matharu, Bryan Jones, Sam Anderson, Stephen Brogan, Paul Carroll, Matthew Friedlander (Cambridge UCCE), Chinmay Gupte, Michael Jarrett, Richard Kettleborough, Tom Leaming (Cardiff UCCE), Danny Miller (Loughborough UCCE), Sameer Patel, Tim Smith, David Snellgrove.