London: Afghanistan have been granted the Associate membership of the ICC, making it the eighth Asian nation and the 38th overall to get the status.
"Afghanistan is the only country that receives the Associate membership in a short period of time in reward to the efforts Afghanistan made for the promotion of cricket," Dr Noor Muhammad, CEO of the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB), said on the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) website.
Looking at the immense progress shown by Afghanistan, the ACC had last year sent the nomination request and the decision to grant Afghanistan the status was taken by the ICC at its ongoing annual conference, which concludes in London today.
Afghanistan now join Hong Kong (1969), Kuwait (2005), Malaysia (1967), Nepal (1996), Singapore (1974), Thailand (2005) and UAE (1990) as ICC Associates from the Asian region.
"It is a tremendous achievement by Afghanistan, the current administrators have worked very hard to advance Afghanistan`s interests and much credit goes to Dr Noor and his team at the Afghanistan Cricket Board," Bandula Warnapura, ACC development manager, said.
The new Associate membership will help Afghanistan get more funds from the ICC and also give much-needed exposure to the team. The ICC is now likely to pay Afghanistan USD 850,000 based on the Associate status, instead of USD 700,000 as the annual fund.
From a country torn by war to a rising cricket playing nation, it has been a fascinating journey for Afghanistan, who became an Affiliate member of the ICC in 2001 when they travelled to Pakistan for their first tour.
After languishing in the fifth division of the World Cricket League at one stage, Afghanistan nearly qualified for the 2011 World Cup, but their failure to get past Canada and surpass Kenya`s net run rate in the World Cup qualifiers, put paid to their hopes.
However, their performance prompted the ICC to granted them ODI status, valid until this year.
In the last few years, Afghanistan has not only featured in the last two editions of the ICC`s World Twenty20 in 2010 and 2012 but have also played ODIs against two Test-playing nations -- Pakistan and Australia.
Though they lost both the ODI matches, performances of their players like Hamid Hassan and Mohammad Nabi have been appreciated. Their journey into a cricket nation was well documented in the documentary based on their rise in cricket Out of the Ashes was produced a few years ago.
Along with their performance on field, Afghanistan also took care of things off-field as their cricket board restructured its organisation to provide better leadership and find qualified staff to run cricket administration.
They are currently developing their domestic cricket infrastructure, and have signed a two-year deal with the Pakistan Cricket Board for the development of Afghanistan cricket ahead of the 2015 World Cup.
The ICC has played a big role in the upliftment of Afghanistan cricket and in April this year, granted USD 422,000 as part of the targeted assistance programme.