Afghanistan to tour UAE for three T20Is in February
Head coach Jonathan Trott's contract has been extended until the end of the 2023 ODI World Cup
UAE will host Afghanistan for three T20Is in Abu Dhabi starting February 16 as part of the agreement signed by the two cricket boards last November, wherein the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) will be offering the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) logistical and infrastructure support for the next five years, including hosting their "home" matches for the period. As a result, Afghanistan committed to playing UAE in a three-match T20I series annually until the deal expires.
"We are honored to be [a] part of this partnership, and are pleased with the results of our recent talks and negotiations with the Emirates Cricket Board," Naseeb Khan, CEO of the ACB, said. "Playing this T20I series is the first step in our long-term commitment, and we are looking forward to a continued relationship with ECB."
The teams will be meeting across formats for the first time since March 2018. However, this series isn't a part of the ICC's FTP during the 2023-27 cycle, where they are slotted to play 21 Tests, 45 ODIs and 57 T20Is. This will also be Afghanistan's first assignment this year, with another three-match T20I series to be played against Pakistan in March. That series might be held at a neutral venue, with the Afghanistan and Pakistan boards to equally split the revenue.
For the UAE series, Afghanistan have selected a preliminary list of 22 players for a preparation camp in the UAE. Rashid Khan will be leading the visitors, who will be departing for the UAE next week for a conditioning camp in Abu Dhabi before the series. The squad will then be trimmed to 17 members.
Meanwhile, the contracts of head coach Jonathan Trott, bowling coach Umar Gul and fielding coach Ryan Maron had come up for extension last month. The ACB has been deliberating on the matter - in which time the team had been in the care of assistant coach Raees Ahmadzai - and green-lit Trott and Maron to stay on till the end of the 2023 ODI World Cup*. Gul's deal has run out.
The timing of the UAE series means several Afghanistan players will be missing the first week of the Pakistan Super League, which starts in Multan from February 13.
Given the political situation in Afghanistan, it has remained a no-go zone for international teams. The situation escalated with the Taliban's takeover in August 2021, following which several ACB staff fled the country. Thereafter, even getting visas for Afghanistan players to play abroad became a challenge.
The ACB subsequently arranged UAE residency visas for about two dozen players and staff, making UAE as their home away from home. In fact, Australia even cancelled a three-match ODI series against Afghanistan scheduled for March after the Taliban banned university education for girls.
Afghanistan's 22-member squad: Rashid Khan (capt), Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Abdul Rahman Rahmani, Afsar Zazai, Azmatullah Omarzai, Bilal Sami, Farid Ahmad Malik, Fazal Haq Farooqi, Gulbadin Naib, Hazratullah Zazai, Ibrahim Zadran, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Najibullah Zadran, Nangyal Kharoti, Naveen Ul Haq, Nijat Masoud, Noor Ahmad, Rahmat Shah, Sediqullah Atal, Shahidullah Kamal, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Zahir Khan
*January 29 6am GMT This story was updated with Trott and Maron's contract extension