Afghanistan cricket team coach Mohammad Kabir Khan promised that his side will be out to give Zimbabwe a stiff competition during their 28 day tour which starts with a two warm up match against Zimbabwe A side beggining today at Bulawayo Athletic Club.
Speaking at a news conference held at a local hotel yesterday Khan said his side is here to play a good game of cricket despite the fact that this is their first ever tour where they are being hosted by an International Cricket Council (ICC) full member board for an international series.
“We are using this tour to test our players against quality opposition. We have a lot of respect for Zimbabwe considering that they are a test playing nation but we will give them a good game of cricket. We will use the games to test our strengths and weaknesses and see where we are since we are going to be playing in the World Cup next year,” Khan said.
The Afghanistan cricket side arrived in Harare on Friday evening before connecting to Bulawayo, for the start of their tour of Zimbabwe.
“We have been to Zimbabwe before in 2009, so most of our boys are familiar with their opponents. We spent a full month in Kabul in preparation for this tour and tried to arrive here early so that we adjust to the climate and get fully functional before the series,” Khan said.
Afghanistan cricket team manager Shafiqullah Stanikzai said the tour was a beginning of a start of a really good relationship between the two cricket boards and that they were hoping to invite Zimbabwe to play in their home ground in Afghanistan.
Yesterday evening, Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) hosted a welcome function for Afghanistan in Bulawayo, which was also attended by cricket fans, corporate representatives and journalists.
The Zimbabwe senior side will then take over to host Afghanistan in four One-Day International (ODI) matches at the Queens Sports Club, also in Bulawayo, on the 18th, 20th, 22nd and 24th of July.
After that, the tour will move to Harare where Zimbabwe A will play Afghanistan in two four-day matches at the Country Club. The first four-dayer starts on July 27 and the second on August 2.
The four ODI matches that will be played in Bulawayo are part of Zimbabwe’s preparations for the 11th International Cricket Council Cricket World Cup, which will be hosted by Australia and New Zealand from the 14th of February to March 29 next year.
The two four-day games in Harare are part of the CZC programme to give the next best level of its players continued exposure to the longer version of the game, to widen the base for selection into the senior side and so improving the competitiveness of its Test cricket.