By Hilal Momand, Jalalabad

Chairman of the Afghanistan Cricket Board and Afghanistan Finance Minister Dr. Omar Zakhilwal has laid the foundation stone of the first ever cricket stadium in his country this week. The stadium will be built in the Ghazi Amanullah Khan Township located 15 kilometers east of Jalalabad city on the Jalalabad – Torkham Highway in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar.

Dr. Zakhilwal says the stadium will cost US$5 million which will be paid for by the Afghan government and the reconstruction arm of international society in Afghanistan, the Provincial Reconstruction Team. The Afghan Cricket Board say they have three million dollars in hand and that the rest of the funds would be acquired soon. “It will address the demand of cricket lovers," he said of the project. The Provincial Governor's spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai told Pajhwok Afghan News if the scheme was stymied by financial constraints, local traders were ready to provide monetary support.

Dr. Zakhilwal applauds as Afghanistan’s captain Nowroz Mangal lifts the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier trophy
Picture courtesy Aric Tan

Dr. Zakhilwal said, “The stadium will be built on 30 acres donated by the developer of the Ghazi Amanullah Khan Township and the construction will take one year. Once completed, the stadium will not only help solve the difficulties Afghan cricketers currently face due to lack of proper playing facilities, but will enable the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) to invite other nations to play in an international standard venue in Afghanistan”. The stadium will include an advanced cricket academy and a hostel for cricketers to live in while practicing at the academy, says ACB Chief Executive Dr. Aimal Shinwari.

Jalalabad, to the east of Kabul, is known as the ‘capital of cricket’ in Afghanistan as its relatively mild weather allows for the playing of cricket around the year, contrary to some parts of Afghanistan where it snows and cricket can be played only during summer and spring only. Jalalabad is also home to cricket crazy fans who always celebrate Afghanistan’s victories in large numbers on the streets.

Afghanistan’s national team players present at the inauguration were of the view that building a standard stadium will help domestic cricket grow faster and will expedite organizing domestic cricket through playing regular cricket tournaments in the future stadium. Dr Shinwari said construction of the stadium (the main expense) would start as soon as the design of the stadium and the accompanied facilities are ready.

Afghanistan Cricket Profile
Afghanistan Has A New Home Ground
Dr. Omar Zakhilwal

Filed March 19th, 2010