Afghanistan to play in Asia Cup
The Asian Cricket Council today announced that the 2014 Asia Cup, initially set to be a four team full member only tournament, has been expanded to five teams, with Afghanistan participating for the first time. Their invitation is intended to help them begin their long term preparations for next year's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
It is not the first time that associate sides have played in the Asia Cup. The UAE and Hong Kong participated in 2004 and 2008, whilst Bangladesh played a number of times in their pre full member days. Nepal and Oman would have played in the 2006 tournament had it not been cancellled.
The decision to include Afghanistan is not without some controversy though. The traditional qualifier for the Asia Cup has been the ACC Trophy, and the last edition of that tournament - in October 2012 - saw Afghanistan finish third behind Nepal and the UAE, who tied the final. Nepal fans have been particularly vocal in their criticism on social media.
Nevertheless, it is hard to argue against Afghanistan's right to be included in the tournament on merit. They remain the only Asian associate with ODI status, and their consistency at associate level over the last few years has shown that they deserve more matches against full members.
The ACC's TV rights deal for the Asia Cup is up for renewal after this tournament, so a strong showing by Afghanistan could be a spur to expand the tournament further, perhaps back to six teams as in 2004 and 2008.
In addition to this announcement, the ACC also announced that the tournament will remain in Bangladesh. There had been moves from the Pakistan Cricket Board to move the tournament due to some violence in the country recently, and the tournament staying there bodes well for the World Twenty20 also staying in Bangladesh.
Combined with Ireland's announcement of their ODIs in May against Sri Lanka, this caps off a week of good news for associate cricket.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]