Afghanistan National Cricket Team will participate as the fifth side in the Asia Cup 2014, Asia's cricket chiefs announced on Saturday at the Annual General Meeting of the Asian Cricket Council.
"The tournament will go ahead as scheduled in Bangladesh from February 25," Asian Cricket Council (ACC) chief executive Ashraful Huq said, “and Afghanistan will be added as the fifth team in the regional one-day tournament.”
Afghanistan will join Asia's four Test nations - India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh - in the 50-over tournament. The fast-improving Afghanistan team, which has qualified for their maiden appearance in the 50-over World Cup 2015, have also made it to their third successive World Twenty20 in 2014.
"This is a big step forward for Afghanistan," Huq said. "Their participation in the Asia Cup will encourage them for the bigger tests ahead."
The decision comes as a result of meetings between Afghanistan Cricket Board management and the cricket boards of India (BCCI) and Sri Lanka (SLC).
“We are grateful that the Asian Cricket Council recommended Afghanistan’s participation in the Asian Cup 2014,” Dr Noor Mohammad Murad, CEO of the Afghanistan Cricket Board, said in Kabul on Saturday, “we are even more thrilled that India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have agreed to our participation.”
“Afghanistan needs the kind of elite level experience that competing against those full member, testing playing nations can provide for us. Our Under-19 National Team has just participated in the Under-19 Asian Cup and made it to the first semi final after defeating Sri Lanka Under-19 team. Now we believe our National Team can also be a competitive presence in this tournament.”
“Win or lose the experience we gain will be very important for us and will have tremendous value for our players.”
Afghanistan’s addition to the competition will lead to changes in the tournament schedule and may extend the competition by some days.