KARACHI: Afghanistan coach Rashid Latif said on Thursday the future of cricket in the war-torn country was bright, citing progress shown by the under-19 team on their tour of Pakistan.
The Afghanistan junior team was in Pakistan to prepare for a tournament in Bangkok next month that serves as the qualifying round for next year’s International Cricket Council (ICC) under-19 world cup.
Latif said the team’s showing augured well for Afghanistan cricket.
“I am very pleased with the progress shown by the Afghanistan juniors and it proves that the country has good back-up players and gives me confidence about their future in the game,” Latif, coach of Afghanistan’s senior team, told AFP.
The team ended the Pakistan tour on Thursday. The under-19 team will be pitted against Nepal, the United Arab Emirates, Thailand and Oman in Group B in Bangkok.
Hong Kong, Qatar, Malaysia, Singapore and Bahrain are placed in Group A of the event, from which two teams will qualify for the under-19 world cup.
Latif, who guided Afghanistan to a silver medal in last year’s Asian Games, said there were quality players among the junior ranks.
“Afghanistan has very good players in the junior team as well as in the A team which is currently playing in Sharjah, so I am confident about the back-up and the only thing Afghanistan cricket needs is grounds and academies,” said Latif.
Under Latif, a former Pakistan captain, Afghanistan also won the ICC Intercontinental Cup — a first-class tournament for ICC associate members — last year.
Former national coach Taj Malik said the juniors had shown great talent. “It is very good to have such talent in the back-up and these players will go on and serve Afghanistan cricket in the future,” said Malik.
Cricket is fast becoming one of the most popular sports in Afghanistan after refugees learnt the game’s skills in camps in Pakistan in the late 1980s.
Last year Afghanistan played in the ICC’s Division One for the first time, narrowly missing out on a place in the 50-over World Cup to be held in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh next month.