Mumbai: Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) officials have sought support from the BCCI for development of the sport in their war-torn country.
The officials held a meeting with the BCCI officials on Sunday and discussed various issues such as coaching, umpiring and scoring.
"We had a good meeting with BCCI Honorary Secretary (Sanjay Jagdale) and General Manager for Game Development (Ratnakar Shetty). It's in the initial stage. We want to build up good relations with BCCI. We want help to develop technical staff, coaches, umpires, scorers and video analysts," said Shahazadah Masood, Advisor Minister and Chairman of ACB.
Also present at the meeting held at the Cricket Club of India (CCI) was ACB's High Performance Programme Manager, Basheer Stanekzai.
"We are preparing a new Under 19 team as the last World Cup team is over-aged. We have selected a 20-member squad. We are working on it and preparing for the ACC (Asian Cricket Council) Under 19 Cup to be held in Malaysia from May 1 to 12. That's the qualification round for the next U-19 World Cup. We need good coaches, especially in terms of batting," said Stanekzai.
"We have weaknesses in batting. As compared to it we have good fast bowlers and have chased 400-run target. They have the talent but are not confident. We want them to learn to stay at the wicket for a long time, build innings and be consistent in performance. They can hit the ball very well but need to learn to stay at the wicket."
He elaborated the road map drawn for development of the game in his country and wished for bigger support from the other Asian member boards like BCCI.
"Afghanistan is a poor country, war-hit country. We haven't got as much support as England gives to Ireland and Scotland. Every time they have invited Australia, they (England and Wales Cricket Board) give 1 or 2 ODIs to Ireland or Scotland and they also play themselves. We haven't got that much support from Asian Board members," the two ACB officials said.
"We took part in ACC tournament in Dubai and got first position and qualified for the Emerging Nations tournament in Singapore in 2013. We had a 6-week camp in Jalalabad from November 22. There were issues relating to fitness of team. We can't get competitive teams to play us in our home base of Sharjah, UAE. We played in Pakistan v Pakistan `A' (earlier this month). We are going to UAE in March to play against Scotland," said Stanekzai.
Afghanistan is to play against Scotland in the ICC League series 4-day match apart from 2 ODIs and one T20 in preparation for World T20 next year. It has set its sights on the 2015 World Cup to be jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
Asked about BCCI's approach on inclusion of Afghan players in the IPL auction in future, Stanekzai said this idea germinated in their mind after four of their players did well in the ongoing Bangladesh Premier League.
"That is in our mind, especially after four of our players performed very well in the Bangladesh Premier League. Nabi Mohammed, our top all-rounder, was selected for Sylhet Royals and has played really well. He has got around 20 wickets and scored 2 fifties, and is a good fielder. He has taken good catches and (effected) run outs.
"We are hopeful that BCCI or any of the franchise teams of IPL would give them a chance. I personally approached one of them to give them a chance prior to their IPL matches in pre-training camps. Mostly we will be giving fast bowlers. Hopefully we will have a positive response," Stanekzai said. He said cricket has overtaken football in terms of popularity in his nation.
"Cricket has become more popular than football because of the success of the national team and is followed by 43,000 fans on Facebook. Interest in cricket going up day by day, especially in the Under 22 age group," he added.