Cricketing history will be made on Friday when Afghanistan travel to Sharjah to face Pakistan – their first ever one-day international against a Test-playing nation.
In a one-off encounter, three days before the start of Pakistan’s ‘home’ one-day series against England in the UAE, Afghanistan will attempt to achieve one of the sport’s greatest ever upsets against their neighbours.
Despite earning One Day International status in 2009 they have only ever faced Associate and Affiliate teams in 50-over contests before, though they do possess some pedigree in the Twenty20 arena.
They are currently ranked ninth in the ICC rankings for the shortest version of the game, and during the World Twenty20 competition in 2010 they played both India and South Africa.
Friday’s historic fixture is another example of increasingly harmonious cricketing relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Afghan team became the first to tour Pakistan since the attack on Sri Lanka’s team coach in March 2009 when they played a trio of 50-over matches against Pakistan A in May this year.
In addition, plans were made for Afghanistan to join Pakistan’s domestic Twenty20 tournament, though this never came to fruition.
The cricketing ties between the two nations have drawn praise from the ICC.
Tim Anderson, ICC Global Development Manager, recently spoke of his admiration for the link and stressed how the organisation were striving to develop the cricketing culture in countries where it was seen as a minority sport.
He stated how nations such as Scotland, UAE, Nepal and even Papa New Guinea were places with huge potential for future growth.
The case of Afghanistan, a burgeoning cricket nation about to take their mightiest step forward on Friday, proves how cricket is a sport that has the ability to flourish if the grassroots are in place.
Kabir Khan, the coach of the United Arab Emirates national cricket team has denied claims that he has agreed terms and signed on a contract that will see him return as the coach of the Afghanistan Cricket Team but has admitted that he might have to resign from his job as the UAE coach eventually due to family reasons.
It was recently leaked on the website of the Afghanistan Cricket Board that the highly successful coach will return to coach the national side after a gap of a year but Kabir Khan has strongly denied those claims.
According to Khan, he was aware of what was put up on the website of the Afghanistan Cricket Board but he strongly claimed that no contract had been signed between the two parties and he did not even mention that he wanted to return to the coach’s job of the Afghanistan Cricket Team, a role that he was highly successful in before leaving for greener pastures in the summer of 2010. However, he further added that he had intimated to the members of the United Arab Emirates Cricket Board that he wished to leave the post of the national team coach due to family reasons.
The 37 year old, who was a highly successful bowler for Pakistan during his playing days coached the Afghanistan Cricket Team to several victories against the ICC associate nations and even led the team to the ICC World Twenty Championships in the West Indies in 2010.
He started off his career with the national team of UAE with a bang as well and his first year in charge was extremely successful but after failing to find suitable schools for his kids in Sharjah, he plans to return to his native country as early as possible and start all over again.
Afghanistan all round cricketer Abdul Razzaq is gearing up for the upcoming Test series against the number one Test team in the world, England at the United Arab Emirates by getting ample game time in the KFC Big Bash League, a Twenty 20 format tournament in Australia.
In fact, Razzaq and his teammate in the national side Shahid Afridi hope that this month long stint of playing cricket at the very top level will only do them good and put them mentally and physically in a position to beat the mighty English.
The 31 year old all rounder missed out on the One Day International series win against Bangladesh after failing to recover from a shoulder injury that he sustained during the series against Sri Lanka but according to the player himself, he is now fit enough to compete and the only reason for playing in the KFC Big Bash League is to gain match practice and match fitness.
According to Abdul Razzaq, the injury that he sustained was not too serious and he expects to be playing a part in the series against England and is looking forward to a tough fight against the best team in the world – with Razzaq back in the team, they might well be worth a bet on cricket online.
Afghanistan are slated to play England in three Test matches, four One Day International matches and three Twenty 20 International matches in the United Arab Emirates, which will be their designated home ground for the series and Razzaq believes that they hold a slight edge because of their familiarity with the conditions.
Currently playing for the Melbourne Stars in the Big Bash League, Abdul Razzaq is looking to get as much bowling done as he possibly can in order to test out his shoulder and he believes that playing in the tournament will hold him in good stead during the England series.
Afgahnistan will start with a tough cricket match against Hong Kong in the Asian Cricket Council’s Twenty20 tournament.
The Afghans are the favourites to win the competition outright, but must start their journey with a testing match against Hong Kong. Victory in the ACC Twenty20 will guarantee them a place in next years World Twenty20 Cup in Sri Lanka 2012.
They will also face matches against Oman, Kuwait and Maldives in the group stages, before going on to face the winners and runners-up of Group B, which contains Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Bhutan and Saudi Arabia.