Afghanistan hopeful of reaching India agreement

The Afghanistan Cricket Board hopes to be able to play bilateral series against India in India annually, as well as playing bilateral series against full members who tour the Asian giants.

Afghanistan have moved their designated home ground from Sharjah to Greater Noida, outside Delhi which they hope will put them in a position to play a lot more cricket.

ACB chief executive Shafiq Stanikzai told ESPN Cricinfo: "If we sign the MOU which we sent to India, potentially Afghanistan Cricket Board will be in a better position than where we are right now, scheduling ODIs with India and scheduling ODIs with teams traveling to India on an annual basis,

"But still it will be bilateral ties. If a traveling team to India wants to play us in India, it is totally up to them."

The ACB faces a challenge to schedule enough cricket for the nation to grow as a team: "Since induction into the FTP, a larger challenge arose for Afghanistan,

"A is arranging fixtures with Full Members and B is funding it and finding funds to accommodate your needs. The expectation of the Afghanistan people has grown immensely. Afghanistan Cricket Board is under tremendous amount of pressure by not having fixtures with Full Members. Comparatively, Ireland has obtained 14 [11] fixtures with Full Members.

"The advantage Ireland has is geographical and teams traveling to England getting quality cricket against Ireland … but Afghanistan is a totally different story… For us, being in the FTP, yeah the window has opened but the challenges are much greater."

The ACB recently unveiled an ambitious plan to become a top three ranked team in T20Is by 2025 but in order to do that they will need to play enough cricket against the top nations.

Stanikzai continued: "The biggest challenge for us for the time being is the competition structure or the fixtures for Afghanistan to compete against Full Members,

"That's somewhere we are lacking and somewhere we need the support from ICC, or maybe Full Member boards should realise they need to make this great game more globalised and take it into the Associate world.

"Afghanistan team is rapidly growing and the flow that Afghanistan national team currently is in is quite brilliant. If we don't get any fixtures – we don't have any confirmed fixtures after our Holland game for the rest of the year – so we are in danger of losing the flow, the momentum we have gained so far in the last nine to 12 months."

The problem of scheduling cricket could be solved if the ICC ratifies plans for a 13-team ODI Championship, which would ensure bilateral series have greater meaning and fit into a structure that guarantees all teams are playing a similar amount of cricket.

Afghanistan faces serious challenges when it comes to arranging travel to face member nations, as Stanikzai explains: "Afghanistan needs to be considered in a very exceptional case,

"Obtaining UK visa cost me USD 80,000 for the team. We don't have a UK High Commission in Afghanistan. We need to travel to India and obtain visas. Going there, staying there, it took us 21 days to obtain UK visa to make this tour possible. Playing Scotland and Ireland is costing us more than USD 350,000.

"If we are to host a Full Member, we are able to cover 80-90% of the costs but if we are traveling to play any other Full Member and they are asking us to cover our own passage, it is an extra burden on us. So things need to balanced. Either we need to be in a regular competition, which this 13-member ODI league will help us quite drastically and prosper quite hugely, and the Test league is also another good prospect for us."

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