LAHORE: Pakistan on Friday signed an agreement to provide greater support for cricket in Afghanistan by training players and staff to help lift the sport in the war-torn country.
Cricket is fast overtaking football as the most popular sport in Afghanistan after the 2001 US-led invasion brought down the Taliban regime, with the national team qualifying for back-to-back World Twenty20s in 2010 and 2012.
The sport was introduced by Afghan refugees returning from cricket-mad Pakistan, where they fled to following the 1979 Soviet invasion.
Afghanistan became a member of the International Cricket Council in 2001 and in 2009 it made division one and attained one-day status.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said it has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) to provide technical and professional help.
The PCB said the assistance includes game education programmes, coaching courses, skill and performance analysis, basic umpiring and groundsman courses.
The PCB will also help plan, organise and implement development programmes for players, including at the Pakistan national cricket academy in Lahore.
PCB chief operating officer Subhan Ahmad said Pakistan has always supported cricket in Afghanistan.
“Actually it is Pakistan's support that has allowed Afghanistan cricket to make rapid strides amongst the ICC's affiliate member nations and we know that Afghanistan has the potential to go places,” said Ahmad.
“And this would be good not just in terms of spreading the game in Afghanistan but promoting peace and harmony there by bringing people closer together.”
ACB chief executive Noor Muhammad welcomed Pakistan's support as of the “utmost importance”.
“The recent support shall put Afghanistan cricket's development on the fast track as our cricketers, coaches and umpires shall be able to make use of the PCB's excellent facilities and various education programmes,” said Muhammad.
Afghanistan last month played limited overs matches against Pakistan's second team in their lead-up to World Cup 2015 qualifying rounds in the United Arab Emirates.