SHARJAH // Afghanistan's rise from war to wickets has delighted the International Cricket Council (ICC) as it looks to far bigger markets – China and the United States.
Tim Anderson, the ICC's global development manager, praised Afghanistan's extraordinary progress as they prepared for their first ever top-level one-day international, against Pakistan in Sharjah.
Friday's match is fitting because Afghanistan's cricketing roots lie in Pakistan, where refugees fleeing the 1979 Soviet invasion took up the sport in camps near the countries' shared border.
"We are delighted with Afghanistan and they are a wonderful story for us to tell how you can overcome the challenges and work through the system," Anderson said.
Afghanistan has been followed on the cricketing path by Nepal and Papua New Guinea, who will both take part in qualifying for this year's World Twenty20 in a tournament in the UAE next month.
And while these countries are far removed from China, cricket has also made inroads in the world's most populous nation following years of initiatives.
"ICC tend to talk about China and USA in the same breath, whereas the USA has a significant cricket culture as there is a large Asian and Caribbean community so they take a lot of interest," Anderson said.
"But China on the other hand has next to no cricket culture."
Despite this, cricket made its Asian Games debut in Guangzhou in 2010, with the Chinese women's T20 team finishing fourth. China's women were also runners-up in last year's Asian Cricket Council Women's Twenty20 Championship.
"The Asian Cricket Council is doing a great job in China by trying to build some momentum," Anderson said, adding: "There is definite potential in China but it will take a little while to grow."