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Atif Mashal resigns as Afghanistan Cricket Board chairman

Afghanistan Cricket Board chairman Atif Mashal stands with captain Asghar Stanikzai ahead of the ceremony for Nawroz Mangal Peter Della Penna

Atif Mashal has resigned as chairman of the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB), with three-and-a-half years of his five-year term still remaining. Mashal took over the job in January 2017. He has confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that the Afghanistan government is assigning him another mission, which he will begin shortly.

Aziz Ullah Fazale, the former ACB vice-chairman and adviser, will replace Mashal. Fazale has been associated with Afghanistan cricket for 16 years and was among the earlier lot of players who established the game in the country. In recent years he has been involved in running the country's domestic and regional set-up.

Mashal has enjoyed a largely smooth term, its highlight coming in June 2017 when the ICC conferred Afghanistan Test status alongside Ireland. Afghanistan played their inaugural Test match in Bengaluru in June 2018.

During Mashal's stint as chairman, Afghanistan saw considerable progress in terms of upgraded cricket infrastructure within the country, the development of a domestic structure, and, most impressively, the rapid progress of the national team - they are currently No. 8 on the ICC's T20I rankings - above Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe - and No. 10 in ODIs.

In his opening spell as ACB chairman, Mashal met with the PCB to revive broken ties by playing two friendly matches. The PCB agreed to provide Afghanistan with venues for training and conditioning camps, and the possibility of reciprocal tours between the youth and senior teams. But the d├ętente between both boards broke barely a week after it had begun. In the wake of a bomb blast in Kabul that killed over 80 people, the ACB cancelled the friendly T20 matches it had scheduled with Pakistan in July and August 2017, in Kabul and Lahore.

The ACB tweeted that it was cancelling the "agreed terms of mutual cricketing relationship" with its Pakistan counterpart. The issue escalated when the ACB, in an expanded statement, blamed Pakistan for the attack, saying that no agreement could be "valid in a country where terrorists are housed and provided a safe haven".

The PCB reacted strongly and asked for an apology from the ACB. While extending its sympathies to the victims of the attack, the PCB hit back at the "baseless" allegations.

Mashal's term also witnessed a cull of employees within the ACB, with the board axing or shuffling over 30 employees, including a number of top officials, as part of extensive reforms after obtaining Full Membership at the ICC. The aggrieved employees alleged that the leadership was mismanaging cricket affairs and misusing funds sanctioned for the development of the game. As many as 25 managers across various departments were released, a step taken, according to Mashal, for the sake of reform and restructuring. Some of the staff had their contracts terminated outright, while others were given a month's notice. Allegedly, a few members of the staff were also either demoted or moved to positions outside their areas of expertise.