Author: Bashir Gharwal

Rashid Khan and Shadab Khan reveal the T20 series trophy

Afghanistan hosts Pakistan for the first ever bilateral series, with an eye on historic win.

Two of the fast growing rivals in the cricketing world, Afghanistan and Pakistan are all set to meet in a T20I bilateral series, the first ever of its kind. The love for cricket and the political landscapes in both countries have always contributed to the ingredients for heated and entertaining contest between the two nations.

Both teams have previously gone head to head in the ICC and ACC events but not in a bilateral series. This series come as a replacement for the 3 ODIs the two teams were supposed to play as part of the ICC FTP. The three T20I are scheduled to be played at the historic Sharjah Cricket Stadium in the UAE.

Afghanistan’s star performer Rashid Khan will be leading his troops. The hosts have never beat Pakistan in an international game but having made some notable changes, his 17-members squad has it all to go over the line and make history by defeating the opposition for the first time in their cricketing history.

Usman Ghani and under 19 star Sediq Atal have replaced the aggressive opener Hazratullah Zazai along with one of their most reliable middle order batters Rahmat Shah. Zazai was out of touch in his recent international appearances and didn’t live up to the expectations in franchise cricket recently. Afghanistan’s most experienced player Mohammad Nabi also makes a comeback in the squad. Nabi resigned from captaincy following his teams average performance in the T20 World Cup 2022.

Pakistan too have rested some of their most experienced crew including the skipper Barbar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan and Fakhar Zaman as well as the fast bowling duo Haris Rauf and Shaheen Shah Afridi. It’s just a matter of time to find out whether they will miss the spearhead pacer who just led Lahore Qalanders to the first ever consecutive titles in PSL, and the likes of Babar and Rizwan at the top of the order.

Shadab has been a consistent performer in Pakistan’s recent successes, just like his rival Rashid, he is too given the responsibility to lead his country on this historic occasion. Having just complete their domestic t20 competition, the Pakistan’s young star studded team is probably the least experience of the two but is not short of any talent.

There has already been some pre-series controversy following the PCB Chairman’s remarks at squad announcement press conference.

“We told Afghanistan board to control their players. We have experiences with regards to winning and losing so can control our emotions, but they are new to international cricket, so they need to keep their players in check” said Najam Sethi.

Former Afghanistan skipper and current Assistant Coach Rais Ahmadzai responded “Both Afghanistan and  Pakistan are playing under ICC code of conduct, Najam Seth Simple give respect take respect, let’s enjoy the best show of cricket in Sharjah” pointing out the initiation of the on field arguments between the two team during Asia Cup where Pakistan’s Asif Ali raised his bat to Farid Malik which fuelled the post match fans brawl.

Emotions are always high both on and off the field during Afghanistan vs Pakistan. The organisers have considered fans segregation, keeping the fans in separate stands to avoid unrest among the fans and provide a friendly environment for those attending. Despite its ins and outs, both teams have always displayed some exceptional performances and this time will not be any different.

Separate stands allocated for Afghanistan and Pakistan fans at Sharjah Stadium
ACB announced fixture for the three-match T20I series against Pakistan. Scheduled to be played at the end of March in Sharjah.

ACB announced fixture for the three-match T20I series against Pakistan, scheduled to be played at the end of March in Sharjah.

ACB announced fixture for the three-match T20I series against Pakistan. Scheduled to be played from the 25th of March until the 29th.

Afghanistan will kick off their 2023 home season by hosting Pakistan in Sharjah. All three games will be played at the same venue on the 25th, 27th and 29th of Match.

Both teams have previously faced each other in ICC and ACC multi teams events on several occasions. This is the first bilateral series of multiple matches between the two neighbouring nations. 

Afghanistan came out victorious in their most recent t20I series against the UAE, they won the series 2-1, However their abilities were tested by the host nation. Their encounters have always gone to the wire but Afghanistan are yet to win a T20I against Pakistan. The Blue Tigers will be hoping to secure their first ever international T20I victory against the Men in Green, and even another series triumph.

Afghanistan v UAE 2023

Pakistan last played a t20 game in the T20 World Cup 2022 which they lost to England by 5 wickets. Pakistan’s most recent international appearances was against New Zealand in the ODI series. The BlackCaps won 2-1 in the three-match ODI series. Meanwhile, both the teams last went head to head for a T20I face-off in the Asia Cup in Sep, 2022. They have played an ODI and t20 at the same venue in 2012 and 2013 respectively, both of which were won by Pakistan.

Strengthening the cricketing ties between the two countries.

ACB Chairman Mr. Mirwais Ashraf: “We appreciate Pakistan Cricket Board’s willingness to play Afghanistan in March. This is a significant accomplishment for two neighboring countries.”
“We are hopeful and looking forward to extending our ties with PCB, as well as continuing great partnerships and frequent cricketing assignments with them, which will help us further strengthen our team and our cricket altogether. Overall, we are excited to host and play Pakistan in what will be a thrilling series of cricket games between the two countries.”

Chair of PCB Management Committee, Mr Najam Sethi: “I am delighted that inaugural Pakistan versus Afghanistan T20I series will be played later this month in a city that has a large ex-pat community and which has always supported cricketers from both countries.

“The PCB and ACB enjoy a strong and cordial relationship. Even today, Afghanistan players are hugely popular in the HBL PSL. I am sure when cricketers from both sides will wear national jerseys for the upcoming international series, they will demonstrate the highest levels of performances and entertain the passionate and cricket-loving crowds.” he added.

There is great rivalry between the two teams whenever they face in international events. Afghanistan and Pakistan have big fan following in Sharjah and across the UAE. There is always quality and competitive cricket on display whenever the two teams meet. With all that being said, we will witness some breathtaking performances and ultimate entertainment.

1st T20I: March 25, Sharjah
2nd T20I: March 27, Sharjah
3rd T20I: March 29, Sharjah

ACF COVID19 / Ramadan Relief Campaign

When World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the COVID-19 virus outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30th of January, almost every country went into lockdown. Schools and offices were closed. Events were postponed. Entertainment industry was shutdown. In the midst of this pandemic, countries around the globe rushed to reroute their national effort and resources towards building and strengthening their healthcare infrastructure.

Unfortunately, some countries were fighting a more nerve-wracking threat than a highly contagious virus – poverty. Afghanistan has been suffering from a 4-decade long war. It has obliterated not just the prospect of peace but also its public welfare system, leaving millions of people desperately trying to survive. Thus, our committee at Afghan Cricket Foundation (ACF) decided to utilise our resources and initiate our COVID-19 Relief Campaign to assuage their suffering through providing food parcels and essential hygiene products.

Covid-19 Relief Campaign
We partnered with Afghan Cricket Association (ACA) and swiftly designed a simple but effective online fundraising campaign as a joint effort to support and alleviate the suffering of the less fortunate. The aim was to distribute food parcels (see image 1) across two different cities in Afghanistan, Kabul and Kunduz. Each package was formulated to ensure it sufficed for a whole family for an entire month.

Image 1: List of items included in our food and hygiene parcels.

After launching this altruistic campaign, we were moved by the generosity and support we received. Our initial modest donation target was met within a few hours. So, we decided to increase our target to £5,000 in order to help more families. We partnered with trustworthy and transparent organisations in Afghanistan to create high quality food parcels for the cheapest price possible. Thanks to our hardworking team in Afghanistan, our final packages had more items, and were cheaper than we advertised therefore allowing us to reach more families.

50 Families received a month worth of food packages in KUNDUZ province

After two weeks there was still palpable demand for keeping the fundraising page active, and we did. As a result, we managed to raise a grand total of £6208, and provided 124 food parcels across not two but three cities. This was a phenomenal achievement considering this was our first ever charitable campaign. We would like to thank every individual across the globe for donating and promoting our campaign. It wouldn’t have been possible without their effort and generosity.

60 Families received food packages for the month of Ramadan in HELMAND province

If you would like to see the impact of this campaign, and the difference it has made then please head over to our social media pages:
Twitter: @ACF_World
Instagram: ACF_World

14 Families received food packages in Nangarhar province

Special Thanks from our CEO
I would like to extend special thanks to each ACA team member for their contribution towards this project under the wing of the foundation. Other volunteers, you know who you are, both officially and unofficially helping to spread the word. They worked hard during this lockdown to deliver massive help in a part of the world that arguably needed it the most. Thanks to all donors who donated every amount small or big; supporters went beyond and shared the campaign with friends and families; also, appreciation of Mr Malik Mangal owner of Mangal Money Transfer for showing massive support in this campaign from being one of the largest contributors to providing other support.