Afghanistan are up for what is starting to feel like the biggest matches of their lives – and they have played India and South Africa in the ICC World Twenty20, won an ACC Trophy and ACC Twenty20 Cup, and been in the Final of the Asian Games in Guangzhou – when they take on Pakistan A in three 50-over matches starting this week. “This tour means a lot to us, we are playing Pakistan in Pakistan, they have six or seven players full international players, it is a genuine chance for us to prove we are good enough to play top-level cricket,” says Afghanistan’s captain Nawroz Mangal.

Afghanistan are the first foreign team to visit the South Asian country since March 2009 when the Sri Lankan cricket team bus in Lahore came under fire, killing six people and wounding another seven. “Pakistan is a very special place to play cricket. The whole country is dedicated to the game and we will get good crowds,” says Bashir Stanikzai of the Afghanistan Cricket Board. “We offered Pakistan to play ODIs in Pakistan as we have full-ODI status, that did not happen this time but I am confident if we do well in these matches those matches will happen. We are always grateful to the support the Pakistan Cricket Board have given, many of our players have played a lot of cricket in Pakistan and as a team we are always happy to play here,” he adds.

Gulbudin Naib and colleagues in a fielding drill in Islamabad

The players themselves are up for these matches. “We had some games between ourselves two weeks ago, I captained a side against a (national captain) Nawroz Mangal XI from where we picked the best team to play Pakistan. Nawroz is my respected friend but I and my team went all out to beat him!” says batting star Asghar Stanikzai. The 16-member Afghanistan squad sent to Pakistan under Pakistani coach Rashid Latif is a mixture of tried and tested, with a couple of fresh faces, all of whom are there on merit.

With Bangladesh and Pakistan on the medals podium in Guangzhou

A highly-motivated Afghanistan beat Pakistan in an Asian Games Twenty20, and only lost the gold medal to Bangladesh in the final over of a pulsating match “people say that Pakistan was like a B Team. It was still Pakistan. We can only play and beat who we play,” says former national captain now also with the Afghanistan Cricket Board Raees Ahmadzai. “Every match we play we are always trying to win.”

Pakistan A’s players are also playing for potential places in the national side, given the rebuilding exercise that the selectors are currently engaged upon. Doing well against Afghanistan will not hurt any player’s chances, doing poorly surely will. There’s a lot to play for. The games are being televised in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Pakistan A v Afghanistan at Islamabad
May 25, 2011 (09:30 local | 04:30 GMT)

Pakistan A v Afghanistan at Rawalpindi
May 27, 2011 (09:30 local | 04:30 GMT)

Pakistan A v Afghanistan at Faisalabad
May 29, 2011 (15:00 local | 10:00 GMT)

Afghanistan Cricket Profile

Filed May 25th, 2011