Asian Cricket Council pushes for Afghanistan promotion
The Asian Cricket Council (ACC) has decided to nominate Afghanistan, which currently holds Affiliate status, for Associate membership with the ICC. The ACC also confirmed that it had received and will work on applications from Tajikistan, Chinese Taipei and Cambodia regarding affiliation with the Asian and global governing bodies.
The ACC development committee, headed by PCB chairman Zaka Ashraf, had met in Islamabad on Monday to confer on various agendas for the calendar year 2013. The committee also approved a budget of US$6.1m for the development of the 18 non-Test playing Asian nations, and decided that the four Asian Test nations will continue to aid the development of the others by inviting them to their national academies.
"Perhaps our most significant decision [taken at the meeting] has been to substantiate the claim of Afghanistan to be an Associate member of the ICC," ACC chief executive, Ashraf-ul-Haq said in Lahore on Tuesday. "Afghanistan has been the strongest side among the Affiliate members, so we are backing them for the promotion."
The ACC has already informed the ICC of their support for Afghanistan, but the request will be looked into only in June 2013, at the ICC's annual conference. "The applications are in order and we are hoping that at the next ICC annual meeting Afghanistan will be given the status they deserve," Haq said.
The Afghanistan Cricket Board had sanctioned an organisational review earlier this year, in a bid to provide better leadership and find qualified staff to run cricket administration in the war-torn country in the long run, and help develop their domestic cricket infrastructure, thus working towards the outstanding playing-standards criteria required for promotion. On the field, the team has continued to impress, finishing second only to Ireland to qualify - for the second eition running - for the ongoing World Twenty20, where they stretched India in a group-stage match. Vanuatu was the last country elevated to Associate membership of the ICC in 2009.
Haq said that while several Asian countries were keen on ACC membership, they would only be processing the applications of Tajikistan, Chinese Taipei and Cambodia. The development of Oman, he said, is high on the agenda.
"We want cricket to be played everywhere," he said. "We [the ACC] are here for the minnows, and are working to promote them. While Afghanistan have reached such heights, Oman will be next in line, as they have got all the facilities there.
"I am also impressed with the development work in China and I'm hoping in the next ten years they will start playing a high level of cricket. I am not sure if they will be a Test nation by then, but surely they are somewhere near playing top-level cricket. Apart from the cricketing aspect, Chiana is a power-house of commercial values - if they come up, the value [of the game] would have climbed by 30 to 40%."
China had showed interest in staging the 2012 Asia Cup in Guangzhou, the venue that hosted the first-ever Asian Games cricket tournament in November, though it was Bangladesh who eventually hosted the event earlier this year. According to Haq, China is a potential venue for cricket, but holding the men's Asia Cup there is not possible due to the lack of floodlights in the stadium.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent