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Afghanistan cancel Ireland tour due to T20 clash

Afghanistan have withdrawn from a proposed one-day series against Ireland next month due to a clash with their domestic T20 competition

Danyal Rasool
Danyal Rasool
Mohammad Nabi hits over the top, West Indies v Afghanistan, 3rd T20I, St Kitts, June 5, 2017

Afghanistan have withdrawn from their tour of Ireland next month  •  AFP

Afghanistan have withdrawn from a proposed one-day series against Ireland next month due to a clash with their domestic T20 competition.
Ireland, who lost 3-2 in their last ODI encounter with Afghanistan in Greater Noida in March, had hoped to host a three-match return series in Belfast in July.
However, the Afghanistan Cricket Board have informed Cricket Ireland that they're not in a position to approve the tour, due to a clash with preparations for their domestic franchise T20 event.
"Of course, our preference is to give as many opportunities as possible to our senior men to play our closest rivals on our home turf, so we are disappointed the matches won't proceed in July," said a Cricket Ireland spokesperson.
"We have enjoyed two very competitive recent ODI series against Afghanistan in Belfast and India. Hopefully we will continue to work with the ACB to see if there are further opportunities to reschedule the matches at a later date."
Afghanistan Cricket Board CEO Shafiq Stanikzai said the series, which Ireland had proposed, had never been officially approved.
"The proposal came from Cricket Ireland, to play them in three ODIs before our MCC game [on July 11]," Stanikzai told ESPNcricinfo. "We agreed in February or March, and the tour was approved by the ACB. Then it was kept on hold by Cricket Ireland, because they were waiting for the ICC board meeting. About two weeks ago, they approached us again to ask if we could go ahead and play this series. This time, the board didn't give us permission because the team is busy, plus we have the T20 franchise tournament coming up."
The timing of the series proposal from Ireland was particularly inconvenient for Afghanistan, who are playing a limited-overs series in West Indies, which concludes on June 14.
"The team has been playing for three months continuously," Stanikzai said. "It makes no sense to come back from West Indies to Kabul for ten days, and then go back to Ireland. We need proper preparation for an Ireland series. We can't have the team in Afghanistan for ten days and go straight back into competition phase. It would have been great if we could go straight from the West Indies to Ireland because then preparation would not be an issue. But since the proposed dates [from Cricket Ireland] were July 1-9, the schedule just didn't work out for us."
Stanikzai stressed that the cancellation of the tour did not sour relations with Cricket Ireland, at least from the ACB's point of view.
"Ireland are our closest rivals, and we would like to play them more and more. We will be looking in the future for an opportunity to play Ireland. We will draw up a schedule with Ireland when we meet them at the Annual General Meeting in June to see when we can play each other again, hopefully in the latter part of this year. Our relations with Ireland are very friendly, and we want them to remain that way."
ESPNcricinfo understands that Afghanistan's maiden fixture at Lord's, when they take on an MCC side led by Brendon McCullum on July 11, is unaffected by this decision.
*08/06/2017: This copy was updated to include ACB's response

Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000