Dubai: Afghanistan, which was granted Test status during the International Cricket Council (ICC) conference in London about two weeks back alongwith Ireland, will consider Sharjah Cricket Stadium as the venue to stage their home series Test matches.
Speaking to Gulf News from Kabul, Shafiq Stanikzai, the Chief Executive Officer of the Afghanistan Cricket Board said: “Sharjah Cricket Stadium is our home venue and we will surely be staging our Test matches there. We are very thankful to Abdul Rehman Bukhatir, who had provided us all facilities in the stadium to regularly play our matches and even train there.”
As international teams are unable to tour Afghanistan due to security reasons, Afghanistan had been staging their home series international limited over matches in the UAE. It was about a decade ago when Afghanistan came to Sharjah to play against UAE that Bukhatir, who came to watch the match, asked the Afghanistan Cricket Board to consider Sharjah as their home ground and even use the gymnasium and nets for their players.
The fairytale journey of Afghanistan began as they went on to qualify in Twenty20 World Cups in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016. They also played in the 2015 ICC World Cup (50 overs).
Stanikzai refuted reports stating that Afghanistan may have to wait till 2018 to play their first Test match. “We will play our first Test very soon, though discussions regarding this matter are only at a very nascent stage now. We will be talking to all Test playing nations for a series,” added Stanikzai, who has been busy receiving congratulatory messages from all cricketing playing nations around the world. Ireland and Afghanistan are now the 11th and 12th full members respectively of the ICC. The last nation to gain full membership was Bangladesh, that too 17 years ago.
Stanikzai revealed that Afghanistan cricket fans are still in celebration over gaining Test status. “All our 34 provinces are celebrating this historic achievement. It is one of the biggest achievements in the last 15 years and our government is celebrating it. On July 14, there will be a huge celebration function in Kabul and at the Presidential palace,” said Stanikzai.
When asked whether Afghanistan will be touring UAE for any One Day or Twenty20 series, Stanikzai said: “The ICC meeting in October will be deciding the new schedule and only then we will be able to reveal our oncoming limited over international matches schedule.”
Afghanistan team has a huge fan following in UAE with large turnouts for all their matches. UAE-based telecommunications company Etisalat had even stepped forward as their main sponsors. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has also backed Afghanistan by providing them with a ground in Greater Noida near New Delhi.
Meanwhile, Ireland is aiming to celebrate their Test status by arranging a Test match against England at Lord’s.