Afghan team ends Pakistan`s intl cricket isolation

Islamabad: Afghanistan`s cricket squad arrived in the capital city on Monday to began what will be the first official tour by any foreign team to Pakistan since the March 2009 attack on the Sri Lankans in Lahore.

The Afghanistan team is due to play three one-day matches against the Pakistan `A` side in Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Faisalabad.

Afghanistan are the first foreign squad to tour the strife-torn nation since militants attacked the Sri Lankan team, killing six policemen and a van driver and wounding five Sri Lankan players and their assistant coach.

"It is a very significant tour for Pakistan cricket and we will ensure that the visitors are provided with the best possible security measures," an official of the Pakistan Cricket Board said.

Pakistan`s former captain and wicket-keeper, Rashid Latif is the head coach of the Afghanistan squad.

The board has sought security assurances from the government for the series with PCB chairman Ijaz Butt holding a meeting with interior minister, Rehman Malik last week.

A source in the interior ministry said that Malik had issued special instructions to provide top security cover to the visiting team.

"After the attack by militants on the Pakistan Naval airbase in Karachi, the government is now taking no chances with security for the visiting team and there is already a high alert in the country," the source said.

Rashid said the tour was important for his team as it was their first opportunity to play an official series in Pakistan.

"We wanted to play a full international series but this was not possible due to then international commitments of the Pakistan national team," Latif said.

"If we can do well in this series it will open up opportunities for the Afghan team to also play against other test playing nations in bilateral series. This is an official tour and every tour has its significance," he added.

The PCB officials hoped the tour could be a small step towards revival of international cricket in Pakistan.

Afghanistan have impressed many cricket pundits with their zest for the sport and rapid improvement on the international stage as they also qualified for the Twenty20 World Cup last year and narrowly missed out on qualifying for the main World Cup held this year.

Latif guided Afghanistan to a stunning win over the Pakistan A side in the Asian Games last year while the Afghanis also won the ICC`s four-day matches competition for Associate teams last year.

The Afghan team is led by all-rounder Nawroz Mangal, who has played 16 one-dayers and eight Twenty20 matches for his country.

Pakistan`s `A` team will be led by paceman Sohail Tanvir.

Afghanistan squad: Nawroz Mangal (c), Mohammad Nabi (v-c), Asghar Stanikzai, Mohammad Shahzad, Karim Sadiq, Hamid Hassan, Noor Ali Zadran, Shapoor Zadran, Samiullah Shinwari, Shabir Noori, Javed Ahmedi, Dawlat Zadran, Nasimullah Khan, Gulbadin Naib, Mirwais Ashraf, Izzat Ullah.


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