Asian cricket beyond the Test sphere was given a boost yesterday when Afghanistan were granted a place at next month’s Asia Cup in Bangladesh.
However, the UAE and Nepal, each of whom finished above Afghanistan in last year’s Asian Cricket Council Trophy, have not been invited to play in the five-team, one-day international event.
The Asia Cup used to carry with it two places for qualifiers from beyond the four subcontinental Test nations – Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
As such, the UAE played in the competition in both 2004 and 2008 after earning their place there via the ACC Trophy.
The qualification process had become so entrenched that the national team assumed they had booked a return ticket to the 2010 tournament when they reached the final of the 2008 ACC Trophy in Malaysia.
However, the ACC subsequently clipped the amount of participating teams to just the four Test nations again.
Afghanistan have been brought into the fold on account of the fact they secured official one-day international status by qualifying for the 2015 World Cup.
Although they are unquestionably the leading side outside of Asia’s Test elite, and have significance appeal for broadcasters, the Afghans finished beneath UAE and Nepal in the most recent ACC Trophy.
UAE and Nepal shared that title when they tied the final in Sharjah in 2012.
“Afghanistan will be participating in a major ODI tournament for the first time,” the ACC said in a statement.
“It will give them an opportunity to get the experience of competing in a major tournament ahead of their World Twenty20 and World Cup 2015 participation.”
The governing body for the sport on the continent also confirmed Bangladesh would host the event as scheduled, despite violent protests and strikes in the capital Dhaka ahead of elections today.
“Everything is in place for the tournament, no one raised any issue about safety,” Ashraful Haq, the ACC’s chief executive, was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse in Colombo.
The National understands that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) did raise concerns at the ACC meeting and that further discussions on the topic will take place in Dubai on Thursday.
The PCB has sought government advice about sending a team to the tournament due to the political unrest in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is also due to host the World Twenty20 tournament, in which the UAE are taking part, from March 16 to April 6.
The three cities chosen for the World Twenty20 – the capital Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet – have all experienced violence over the past month.
The danger posed to teams was underlined last month when a small bomb exploded outside the hotel of the West Indies Under 19 team in the port city of Chittagong, prompting them to cut short their tour.
Sri Lanka have confirmed they will go ahead with their month-long bilateral tour of Bangladesh from January 27.
“We pay great attention to player safety and security. We have been assured of that,” Nishantha Ranatunga, Sri Lanka Cricket’s secretary, was quoted as saying.
“If we want cricket to continue in this region, we need to play in these [Asian] countries.
“We have faced these [security] problems, Pakistan has faced these problems and now Bangladesh is facing them. We must unite to face these challenges.”