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Pakistan to play T20 friendly in Kabul

Afghanistan were the first international team to tour Pakistan after the 2009 Lahore attack AFP

Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed in principle to play T20 friendlies - as opposed to internationals - as part of their efforts to renew ties with each other. The matches are set to take place in Kabul and Lahore sometime in July and August.

A delegation led by ACB chairman Atif Mashal met with his counterpart in the PCB Shaharyar Khan in Lahore on Saturday. After lengthy discussions, the Pakistan board expressed willingness to provide Afghanistan with venues for training and conditioning camps and laid the groundwork for both their youth and senior teams to play reciprocal tours.

"The relationship between the two boards and the two nations is historic. It is not new," Mashal said. "I am here to renew our commitment and sports should not be influenced by the politics of two governments.

"I am happy to have great discussion with Pakistan Cricket Board and agreed on various plans. We are renewing this relation with a friendly match between Pakistan and Afghanistan in Kabul and then we will return to Pakistan to play one. We have also agreed to play a bilateral series for which dates will be decided later."

The ACB had arranged a similar deal in 2013 which the Afghanistan cricketers were given access to the National Cricket Academy in Lahore. But, after the first few visits, complications arose. Eventually, the ACB had to find an alternative venue - Greater Noida in India - to help their players prepare and host international teams.

Afghanistan were the first international team to visit Pakistan since the 2009 attacks in Lahore and had been part of the domestic T20 competition in Karachi in 2013. They were in talks to play in Pakistan in April 2016 but the Pakistan government had reportedly advised against the series after an attack in a recreational park in Lahore.

Mashal is aware of the challenges before both the ACB and the PCB but was eager to renew ties. "We know there is tension in the border but it's my job as chairman of Afghanistan cricket board to keep this interaction between two cricketing nations going and to help governments start something positive.

"We are trying our best to keep sports, especially cricket, away from politics as well as looking for our national interest. Still, sports is sports and we should use this as a tool to influence the politics arena positively and create a good atmosphere between two friendly and brotherly nations."

These talks, Mashal said, won't have any bearing on Afghanistan's existing ties with India. "Relation with Pakistan doesn't mean we don't have relation with India. They are also a strategic partner, a friend and they also support Afghanistan cricket. Pakistan did a great job in the development of Afghanistan cricket and we value both nations."