Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Pakistan have agreed in principle to play T20 friendlies against Afghanistan in Kabul and Lahore at some point between July and August.
The matches will help strengthen ties between the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB).
In fact, PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan and ACB chairman Atif Mashal met in Lahore on Saturday and the PCB confirmed that they are ready to provide venues for Afghanistan to train and hold conditioning camps.
Furthermore, both boards seem willing to let their youth and national teams face each other on 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 PCB and ACB had a similar deal in place in 2013, in which the Afghanistan team were given access to the National Cricket Academy in Lahore.
But, after Afghanistan visited Pakistan a couple of times, the deal broke down. Afghanistan now use Greater Noida in India to prepare for and host international matches.
Afghanistan were also in discussions with the PCB about a possible tour of Pakistan in April 2016, but the Pakistan government allegedly stopped the series from happening following a suicide bombing at a public park in Lahore.
“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,” Mashal said. “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.”
When asked if their attempts to solidify ties with Pakistan would have any effect on their relations with India and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Mashal said: “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.”