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Afghan cricketers set to get home away from home in Lucknow

The Afghanistan Cricket Board has made up its mind to make Lucknow’s Atal Bihari Vajpayee International Cricket Stadium its team’s new adopted home ground.

sports Updated: May 09, 2019 15:43 IST
Sharad Deep
Sharad Deep
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Afghan cricketers,Lucknow,Uttar Pradesh
Afghanistan team celebrate their first ever win in Test cricket at Dehradun in March.(Getty image)

The Afghanistan Cricket Board has made up its mind to make Lucknow’s Atal Bihari Vajpayee International Cricket Stadium its team’s new adopted home ground, moving from the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Dehradun as the Uttarakhand capital lacks a five-star hotel.

If the move is formalised, it will be a home away from away for the Afghan players due to Lucknow’s rich Nawabi culture, non-vegetarian cuisine and the presence of a large number of Afghans in the state capital. Currently, the Afghan national team does not play its matches in its native land due to security concerns and inadequate facilities.

If the move to the Uttar Pradesh capital is approved at a joint meeting of the Afghanistan Cricket Board and the Board of Control for Cricket in India on May 16, Lucknowites will get to see Tests, one-dayers and T20s involving Afghanistan and other Test playing nations here.

The availability of five-star hotels in Lucknow will enable the Afghanistan Cricket Board to invite foreign teams to the state capital for bilateral series.

Own by Ekana Sports City, the Lucknow stadium hosted its first-ever international match in November last between India and West Indies, a T20 International in which the hosts had an easy win. This March, Afghanistan became the newest ICC full member to pull off a Test win, defeating Ireland by seven wickets in Dehradun.

Captained by Asghar Afghan, the team needed to chase down a 147-run target. With Ihsanullah Janat scoring an unbeaten 65 and Rahmat Shah notching up 76, the hosts went on to win the match easily in the first session of the fourth day. This was only the second Test Afghanistan played since they were awarded Test status in June 2017. They last played India in the longest format in June 2018, in which they were defeated by an innings and 262 runs.

It took them a year and nine months to record their first international win in red-ball cricket since being awarded the Test status.

“Yes, the ACB people are in constant touch with us and have visited the stadium thrice during the last two months,” the stadium’s managing director Udai Sinha confirmed on Wednesday.

“We have the ICC’s approval and we are ready for all kinds of cricket here,” he said, adding, “Our first endeavour was appreciated by everyone.”

During the under-19 quadrangular series last year, involving India A, India B, Afghanistan and Nepal, young Afghan cricketers praised the stadium here.

In fact, they were quite enthusiastic about Nawabi culture and Lucknow food, especially kebabs and biryani.

“It’s the perfect place for the Afghanistan Cricket Board to make its home ground. We will have good support of Afghans here. Lucknow’s culinary culture is quite similar to ours and all the city has passion for the game,” Shadab said.

Afghanistan Cricket Board’s CEO Asadullah Khan was quoted on Tuesday as evincing his interest in the Lucknow stadium and hosting the Afghanistan Premier League matches in India.

“If we bring our APL here in India, we will have a chance to get good sponsors too,” he said.

First Published: May 09, 2019 15:43 IST