Latif looks for more cricket in Afghanistan

Afghani players make a successful appeal for dismissal of Pakistan batsman Rameez Raja AFP

By Shahid Hashmi

Karachi: May 30, 2011

Afghanistan coach Rashid Latif Monday urged the nascent cricketing nation to develop more sporting infrastructure so that players can improve more quickly by playing at home.

“It is important that Afghan players play more on their home grounds,” Latif told AFP. “The situation in the country is improving, so it is imperative that Afghanistan has grounds where the players play regularly and not in gaps.”

The 42-year-old former Pakistan captain took over as coach last year and was part of the touring squad blanked 3-0 in a three-match one-day series by Pakistan’s ‘A’.

Pakistan ‘A’ won the first match in Islamabad by five wickets, the second in Rawalpindi by 150 runs and the third at Faisalabad on Sunday by four wickets.

Latif said he was not satisfied with the performance after the Afghanistan team made rapid strides at international level in the last three years, including a silver-medal finish at the Asian Games in China in 2010.

“We did not perform to our potential,” said Latif, who played 37 Tests and 166 one-day internationals for Pakistan. “We were capable of doing better than this, but the main reason of this is that we are not playing regularly. In the last 10 years, Afghanistan has not built a ground and because of that players have to go to the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan to play, which comes about after big gaps, and players tend to get unfit.”

Latif said grounds are a must for the next generation of Afghan players.

“I think its imperative that we have grounds in Afghanistan and with more playing facilities we can have players from the next generation and don’t have to rely on this set of players for ever,” said Latif.

Latif called on the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) to give special attention to Afghanistan, where “unlike other associate countries a big majority play cricket”.

Afghanistan’s next assignment is the ICC Inter-Continental Cup, an event for associate countries.

Latif urged Test-playing nations to invite Afghanistan to tour.

“Countries like Sri Lanka, India, England and Australia need to give tours to Afghanistan so that they learn more and more,” said Latif.

Cricket developed in Afghanistan through refugees who learnt the game in Pakistan after fleeing the Soviet invasion of their country in 1979.