Even the incessant rains couldn’t stop Afghanistan from creating history as Afghanistan defeated Bangladesh in their backyard and with this thrashing, it equalled Australia’s longstanding record as the quickest nation to chalk up two victories in Test cricket. The whole world collectively rejoiced to celebrate Afghanistan’s stupendous achievement but no one was as proud as Afghanistan’s cricketing ‘home’, India.
There is no doubt that India has played a pivotal role in stabilising and developing Afghanistan but out of all its projects, developing Afghanistan Cricket continues to shine the brightest. It all started in 2015 when India agreed to allow Afghanistan to train and host matches at Shahid Vijay Singh Pathik Sports Complex in Greater Noida which effectively became the home ground of Afghanistan Cricket.
Earlier, Afghanistan used to call Sharjah their home ground but it was difficult to convince other boards to come to play in Sharjah, which wasn’t going to be the case in India. It is no coincidence that Afghanistan’s rapid rise in cricket has coincided with its decision to shift base to India. Ex-Afghanistan Cricket CEO Stanikzai was quoted saying that “BCCI’s role has been immense. Since we moved to India the team has done well. The conditions in India are suiting the team quite well. the support we receive from BCCI has been instrumental.” Stanikzai acknowledges the support it received from the Pakistan Cricket Board in the initial stages but feels that ever since they moved to India, they are not only performing well but also playing against the best of the teams. The Indian Premier League on its part has played a huge role in giving a platform to the Afghan players to display their talent on a global level. Players like Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammed Nabi have gained widespread popularity and experience thanks to their successful stints in IPL.
In a bid to expand Afghan cricket’s portfolio and give their local talent a chance to perform at the highest levels, the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) is all set to organise the first edition of Afghanistan Premier League(APL) in India with Ekana International Stadium in Lucknow slated to host the first edition of APL after the BCCI approved ACB’s request. It is a major development for Afghanistan as the stadium can host 40,000 spectators at once and complies to all the international standards. The BCCI is also assisting junior teams from Afghanistan to play in India, and also provide assistance for the improvement of coaching, umpiring, and other technical support roles. Alongside this, the Indian government recently provided $1 million for the construction of a cricket stadium and adjoining facilities in Kandahar.
India and cricket are synonymous and any bilateral series with India as hosts emerges as a money-spinner for the touring side. Bangladesh got its Test status way back in 2000 but India only agreed to host Bangladesh for a Test match in 2017, 17 years after our neighbour started playing Test cricket. In a testament of Indio-Afghan friendship, the BCCI agreed to host Afghanistan for its first-ever test match in Bengaluru on June 2018. While India might have crushed Afghanistan in the only Test match between the two sides, Afghanistan has only gone from strength to strength and have defeated Ireland in Dehradun and Bangladesh in Chittagong, also known as Chattogram, thereby equalling Australia’s record and becoming the joint quickest nation to record two test victories. It is interesting to note that Bangladesh was coming off a morale-boosting World Cup performance and had recently defeated the reigning Ashes holder, Australia in a Test match in Mirpur.
The operational support to the ACB from the BCCI has been immense as the former recorded its first Test win against Ireland at Dehradun. Last year, Afghanistan also hosted Bangladesh in Dehradun for a three-match T20 series and completely whitewashed the latter by winning the series 3-0.
As Afghanistan looks to consolidate their trajectory, India is all set to play an integral role in helping Afghanistan stand shoulder to shoulder with the best of the world. Afghanistan has recently become the latest country to gain full membership of ICC hence, entering an elusive group of 12 nations. This would mean Afghanistan requiring more assistance and the decision of CoA to allocate Ekana cricket stadium in Lucknow to Afghanistan enabling the latter to host their International matches is a step in the right direction and a sign of things to come.