Afghanistan and Ireland have joined the ranks of full Test-playing nations after receiving approval from the International Cricket Council, making them 11th and 12th nations to join the elite group in the game.
The governing council voted on granting the two nations permission to play in the traditional five-day game through a unanimous decision at ICC’s Annual General Meeting in London on Thursday.
“For a nation like Afghanistan it is a huge and remarkable achievement, the entire nation will be celebrating across all five regions and different provinces,” Reuters quoted Afghanistan Cricket Board Chief Executive Shafiq Stanikzai as saying.
“It is the perfect Eid gift,” he added, referring to the approaching Muslim holiday that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
“Everyone has waited for this news and has been so keen to hear this news. Afghanistan cricket has gone from strength to strength and we dared to dream that this would happen and today it has become a reality,” he said.
Until 1982, there were only seven Test-playing nations but that year Sri Lanka were admitted, Zimbabwe then joined in 1992 and Bangladesh became the most recent member in 2000.
Cricket has a long history in Afghanistan but the country played amongst the sports minnows until gaining one-day international (ODI) status after the qualifiers for the 2011 World Cup.
Two years later, the country, still suffering from the impact of war and conflict, was given ‘Associate Member’ status of the ICC.
In 2015, Afghanistan played their first 50-over World Cup and they have also featured in the World Twenty20 competition.
Ireland have steadily progressed in the game and first qualified for the World Cup in 2007 when they pulled off a shock win over Pakistan. They have qualified for both World Cups since.
“We are delighted and proud with today’s historic announcement. It is an extraordinary testament to the talent and endeavour of thousands of passionate players, coaches, volunteers, staff, clubs and committee people,” Cricket Ireland Chief Executive Warren Deutrom said.
The ICC conference also agreed on a new revenue-sharing system and voted to expel the United States of America Cricket Association following a series of disputes.
The ICC said it would now work to “establish a new governing body for cricket in the USA that is capable of unifying the fractured cricket community in that part of the world”. – Agency