Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Nepal and UAE have qualified for the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh next March. All four ACC teams came through the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifiers in the UAE successfully, taking on 12 other Associate teams, before finishing in the top six. Afghanistan were beaten Finalists, Nepal finished third, UAE fourth and Hong Kong sixth. "It's an unprecedented achievement by the ACC members, it has been done on merit and is the result of a great deal of hard work by the players, coaches and administrators of the respective countries,"said ACC Chief Executive Syed Ashraful Huq.

For Afghanistan it is the third successive World Twenty20 in which they will be appearing. They also won qualification to ICC World Cup 2015 earlier this year. For Hong Kong and Nepal the World Twenty20 represents their first senior global event - many of the players in the UAE this month represented their country in previous ICC U/19 World Cups - and for the UAE it represents a return to the world stage for the first time in 18 years, after World Cup 1996. For Nepal's captain Paras Khadka, who has played in three U/19 World Cups since 2004, World Twenty20 qualification "is the biggest moment of our lives. Our childhood dreams have come true. "I think the boys have worked really hard for this and been pushing it in the World Cricket League and the Twenty20 format. I think when it mattered, everyone contributed."

The ICC expanded the World Twenty20 and the qualification process following an ICC Executive Board meeting in April 2012, after some cogent presentations from the non-Test playing members. The ACC has promoted the Twenty20 format in the Asian Games and the ACC Development Officers have all found the format to be one that is the most easily understood by those new to the game. The administrators, coaches and players of the respective qualifying countries have been thoroughly supported over many years by the ACC Development team. With Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Nepal and UAE all qualifying for a World Cup, as is evident already in Afghanistan the success of the national team is linked to the success of cricket. Associations will now find it easier to develop More teams, more players, more tournaments, more sponsorships, more integration of cricket in schools. All of these elements will benefit the successful ACC member countries and the other achievers in the next cycle of events. With ICC Twenty20 events every two years, as Afghanistan have shown, if it's done once, it can be repeated soon after by something close to the same group of players.

The Test-playing countries have also supported the development of Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Nepal, UAE and many other ACC members. Pakistan have provided their National Academy at Lahore, Hong Kong have often toured India and Sri Lanka, as has Nepal, and the UAE haven't had to travel too far to be exposed to top-level cricket with Pakistan playing their home internationals there since 2010 and thus have had opportunities for side-games and net practice against all the visitors. Afghanistan too have had the support of the UAE in having Sharjah as their 'home' ground for international fixtures and the support for them and Nepal in the Emirates numbers many thousands at the turnstiles.

"What these four countries have done means that the watching world actually realises that Asia develops a broad base of excellent cricketers, it means that those inside the governments of the countries now will appreciate they actually have teams in the top 16 of a global sport, something which they have never had before and it means that cricket becomes an even more attractive game to play," says the ACC Chief Executive.

Pictures by IDI/Getty Images

ICC World Twenty20 Qualifiers 2013
ICC World Twenty20 2014

Filed December 2nd, 2013