New Delhi: Afghanistan cricket team has shifted its home base from Sharjah to the UPCA stadium in NOIDA where they will play their matches and practice after an MoU was signed yesterday in this regard.
According to the Memorandum of Understanding with BCCI and Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority, the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) will be able to utilise the facilities of the Shaheed Vijay Singh Pathik Sports Complex, which has successfully hosted a Ranji Trophy game between Uttar Pradesh and Baroda.
"First of all I would like to thank BCCI and Greater Noida Authority. We compliment the support of BCCI towards Afghanistan cricket development and the commitment they have shown so far is immense. We were trying a lot from the last few years to get some sort of support from BCCI as Afghanistan, you all know, is an emerging nation, which is knocking the door of Test cricket," Shafiq Stanikzai, CEO ACB, told media here.
BCCI Secretary Anurag Thakur, who also signed the MoU papers in presence of UPCA Secretary Rajeev Shukla, not only gave the new ground a big thumbs but also complimented the Afghanistan team for its recent success.
"Afghanistan have done well in the last two years and to qualify in the World Cup, it showcases their hard-work. And they will play in India and like India played a big hand in Bangladesh becoming a full member, India will also play a big part in Afghanistan becoming a full member as well," Thakur said.
Thakur also insisted that rubbing shoulders with the greats of Indian cricket will certainly open a new world for the young Afghan players. "Not only they will play their matches here but will also get added support like a chance to get help from top coaches and a chance to rub shoulders with India's best cricketer's.
Greats like Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble and Rahul Dravid might not travel to Kabul but can certainly give these players a tip or two when they are in India. So BCCI will certainly help them in every manner," he said.
Shukla said, "I, on behalf of UPCA, welcome this arrangement done by BCCI, Afghanistan Cricket Board as well as Greater Noida Authority. So far they were witnessing Ranji Games, we also plan to have Deodhar Trophy there and now Afghanistan will have their home base there instead of Sharjah.
"So I think it is a good opportunity for all of us. People will also be able to watch international games in the future. We are delighted that everyday five to 10 thousand people watched the Ranji game," Shukla said.
On being asked about the time frame for international matches to be hosted on this ground, Thakur said, "Look ICC has this procedure that whichever stadium has to have international matches, a match referee has to inspect the venue and if it fits the bill for an ICC venue then it gets permission for it.
"The ICC did a recce of this ground and it was found fit to host affiliate and associate matches and also for Under-19 and 'A' level cricket. To host an international match the venue still needs to be equipped with a few more facilities," he said.
"And the way the authorities of the Greater Noida Development Authority have told us they are working on the shortcomings of the ground to host international matches in the future. And Afghanistan board will also be able to play their international matches in the future," he added.
Rama Raman, Chairman, Noida, Greater Noida, Yamuna Expressway Authority said, "Mr. Akhilesh Yadav, Honourable Chief Minister, Uttar Pradesh was very keen to offer this ground to Afghanistan Cricket Board and because of his support, we were able to work out this proposal in very short period of time. On behalf of Chief Minister and Government of Uttar Pradesh, I offer our full support to Afghanistan Cricket Board, and I am thankful to BCCI for facilitating this opportunity."
Meanwhile Thakur also talked about the strengthening of Indo-Afghan ties through this MoU. "Indo-Afghan ties will be strengthened on the political front, people-to-people contact and on the sporting front especially on the cricket field. And as Afghanistan wanted to have a permanent home ground in India, they liked the Greater Noida venue and so it happened.
"Even the officials of the Greater Noida Industrial Authority did their best to even come on holidays and show us the facilities. So they have played a big part in strengthening the ties between two nations, popularise cricket and make Greater Noida known to the world." he said.
"Afghanistan Cricket Board generally plays its matches outside its country. And the way Indo-Afghan ties are good politically, they are also good on the cricket field. And Afghanistan board has always wanted that it should have a home venue in India, where they can give its cricket a boost.
"And in India's state like Uttar Pradesh, they got a home venue due to the efforts of the Greater Noida officials and also due to the efforts of UPCA Secretary Rajeev Shukla," he added. Thakur was more than happy to throw light on the efforts of Asian powerhouses, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, to uplift associate cricket in the region.
"In the recently concluded Asian Cricket Council meeting, I personally stressed on the fact that associate nations should be helped. We also agreed that the four full members (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh) should take out two per cent of their overall earnings and two percent combined from the associate nations and generated a kitty.
"That 10 per cent money will help host the Associate Asia Cup in which countries like Afghanistan and Oman will play with their full teams while India, Pak, SL and Bangladesh will send their A teams with some top players in them. Big players, who might not be a part of the senior team will also accompany the big guns to raise the level of cricket," he said.