ISLAMABAD // The deadly attack on the Sri Lankan team's convoy at Lahore last week has not concerned at least one team with World Cup aspirations from travelling to Pakistan. The national team from neighbouring Afghanistan have been quietly practising in the capital of North West Frontier Province at Peshawar since March 5, selecting it as an alternate venue after gunmen ambushed a convoy in Lahore.
"We were supposed to train in Lahore but after what happened there last week, we shifted the training camp to Peshawar," the Afghanistan cricket coach and former Pakistan Test batsman Kabir Khan said yesterday. As the attack dismissed notions that cricketers will never be targeted on Pakistani soil, reaction from around the globe suggested it will be a long time before any team tour Pakistan again and that the country's status as co-host of the 2011 World Cup would be in doubt.
Afghanistan, however, have no problem practising in Pakistan, but they are taking precautions. "We are also staying away from the media as security around the ground is also very tight and there are dozens of policemen guarding our team," said Khan, the former coach of UAE. Afghanistan are warming up for next month's International Cricket Council qualifying tournament in South Africa, where four teams can qualify for the World Cup. Khan, a left-arm fast bowler who played four Test matches and 10 limited-overs internationals for Pakistan, said his players travelled in small groups to the stadium for practice to avoid any untoward incident. The players wear local outfits and change into cricket clothes when they get there.
The Afghanistan squad will wrap up their camp on Tuesday and fly to South Africa on three days later. A warm-up match against Oman will precede the tournament. * AP