The Afghanistan Cricket Federation was established in 1995. It was granted affiliate membership by the International Cricket Council (ICC) in 2001 and this year marked the beginning of an incredible journey in the history of sports, and subsequently being granted associate membership of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) in 2003.
The game of cricket was not very popular in the country in early to mid-2000. The loss to Hong Kong in the semi-final of the 2006 ACC Trophy brought invaluable benefits to Afghanistan National Cricket Team as it helped the players to develop a passion and tenacity for victories. This in turn influenced the fan following of the game across the country as well as within the Afghan diaspora abroad, particularly amongst the youth. Afghan cricket started to attract the attention of the mass media which helped the coverage of the national team’s rise. In 2007, after becoming the joint champion of the ACC T20 trophy in Kuwait, the national team received a heroes’ welcome upon their arrival from different members of the society including government officials and the victory was celebrated across the country. The national team players were invited to celebratory events in different provinces of Afghanistan. Cricket gave a hope of unity and prosperity to the nation that had been in war for over three decades and this raised the expectations of the public from the national team to play as a unit with even higher spirits. This played a vital role in attracting the interest of the government of Afghanistan at a time when
The Afghanistan Cricket Federation submitted a proposal to the President of the country to elevate the status of the governing body from a Federation to an independent Board, namely the Afghanistan Cricket Board, in order to ensure that it is on par with prevalent practices in other countries, which was approved by the President by issuing a decree on 2nd June, 2009. The increased independence as a result of its recognition as an independent governing body allowed ACB to adopt good governance practices to ensure that key relevant results are delivered in terms of accountability, responsibility, transparency and solidarity.
The much needed support of the government helped the commencement of a great era for the development of cricket in the country. The President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, His Excellency Hamid Karzai, keenly took the position of the Patron-in-chief of ACB and Minister Finance, Dr. Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, was appointed the first Chairman of ACB. The ACB started to develop an organizational structure by recruiting professional staff members; the headquarters in Kabul was staffed followed by regional and provincial offices. The expertise and dedication of the Finance Minister helped ACB to find financial resources for the day-to-day operations of ACB despite major challenges when the country was dependent on foreign aid and the fund provided by ICC to the ACB as an affiliate member.
Afghanistan Cricket Board developed its five-year strategic plan in 2011 followed by the current strategic plan that is due for renewal in 2019. This encapsulates the key areas of administrative development and reform; cricket development; infrastructure development; and financial sustainability and growth.
Afghanistan’s performance in the ICC World Cricket League Division Five as a result of its Asian Cricket Council (ACC) ranking, the team went through immense hard-work and faced playing up to 25 matches to pursue qualification to the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup. Building in confidence and competence, Afghanistan won Division Five by the narrowest of margins, noticeably this was the first ICC tournament that Afghanistan participated in, before going through Division Four unbeaten. It was followed by winning Division Three in Argentina and making it to the world cup qualifying round in South Africa in 2009 where the team qualified for the Super Eights but fell short by only one place to qualify for the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup. The good news that came out of this tournament for Afghanistan was obtaining both ODI status and qualification to the ICC Intercontinental Cup (I-Cup) by beating Namibia.
Afghanistan’s national team emerged as the winner of the ICC WT20Q in the United Arab Emirates in 2010 by winning all group matches including the victory against Ireland in the final, the dominant cricketing force of the ICC affiliate and associate world of the time. This paved the way for Afghanistan to appear on the global stage when it qualified for the 2010 ICC World Twenty20 in the Caribbean after winning the qualifiers. Although, the team lost both its first-round matches to India and South Africa but their participation and conduct was widely lauded by fans and pundits of cricket.
The Under-19 team also contributed on their part and qualified for the 2010 ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup in New Zealand. 2012 was also a year of success for the Afghanistan national cricket as it qualified for the men’s 2012 ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka and the Afghanistan U-19 cricket team participated in the 2012 ICC U-19 World Cup in Australia. This year Afghanistan played its first game against ICC Full Member Pakistan in Sharjah and also hosted ICC Full Member Australia for the only ODI in Sharjah. In 2013, Afghanistan was granted Associate membership by the ICC following notable progress in different aspects of the game including developmental work carried out by the governing body, ACB.
The following years saw Afghanistan take part in the 2014 ICC World Twenty20 and securing qualification to the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup in New Zealand and Australia where they clinched a historic win against Scotland to mark its first win in the Cricket World Cup. In the same year, Afghanistan played its first ever ODI series against FM Zimbabwe and levelled the series 2-2. Afghanistan U-19 cricket team took part in 2014 ICC U-19 World Cup in the UAE where they finished 7th, the highlight of the tournament was Afghanistan’s victory over Australia in the group stage.
In 2015, Afghanistan was inducted in ICC Future Tours Program (FTP) enabling making it possible for Afghanistan to play FTP teams and Afghanistan breaking into ICC 12-team ODI ranking. In the same year, Afghanistan also secured victories in both the ODI series by 3-2 and 2-0 in the T20Is series and ranked 10th in ICC ODI ranking and 9th in ICC T20I ranking. Afghanistan made history by becoming the first associate nation to beat a full member nation in a bilateral series. ACB reciprocated the series by hosting Zimbabwe for the first time in both ODIs and T20Is series in Sharjah in 2015/16 delivering similar result.
In 2016, Afghanistan participated in its fourth consecutive ICC World Twenty20 in India and it was their qualification to the Super-10 stage in this tournament and the subsequent win against the ultimate champion, West Indies, which particularly distinguished Afghanistan’s participation in the 2016 ICC World Twenty20 from previous tournaments. Afghanistan U-19 participated in the ICC U-19 World Cup in Bangladesh and emerged as the Plate Champion of the tournament.
On 22nd June 2017, Afghanistan was awarded Full Member status during ICC’s Annual General Meeting in London, United Kingdom. This was ACB’s longstanding goal and it only took Afghanistan four years to be elevated from Associate to Full Member. In addition, ICC awarded List A status to ACB’s three major domestic tournaments. ACB was also awarded Test status by ICC in 2017 opening a new chapter for Afghanistan to play test cricket against Full Member nations in the years to come.