Afghanistan and Ireland have been approved as Full Members by the ICC making them cricket's 11th and 12th Test-playing nation respectively. The status was awarded by the International Cricket Council (ICC) Board in London on Thursday, during the ICC's Annual General Meeting.
The two countries had applied to the ICC to have their status upgraded from Associates, and this was put to vote at the meeting on Thursday and unanimously supported. Ireland first gained ODI status in 2005 after finishing runners-up in the ICC Trophy tournament, which they hosted, to gain their first World Cup berth. Two years later, at the world cup, the Irish shocked the world as they stunned Pakistan in Jamaica and haven’t looked back since.
They’ve qualified for two subsequent World Cups since wherein they beat England and West Indies to further prove that they could maintain competitiveness with other Test nations.
Speaking of their latest achievement, Cricket Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom said, "Test cricket is the pinnacle, it's the best. Not being able to play Tests was the reason cited by some players, who weren't able to achieve that career fulfilment with Ireland, as the reason they went to England," as reported by Cricinfo.
"That reason is now removed, we can play Tests ourselves. Who can say for certain that players won't leave in the future, but that can't be the reason for it now," he added.
Afghanistan on the other hand, have themselves improved by leaps and bounds ever since they first gained ODI status in 2009 with a sixth-place finish at that year's World Cup Qualifier in South Africa. It followed three consecutive promotions over the previous year when they began in Division Five of the World Cricket League. Like Ireland, they have demonstrated that they can hold their own against full member nations, securing three straight ODI and T20I series win over Zimbabwe as well as a win over eventual champion West Indies at the 2016 World T20. Most recently they drew their maiden ODI series in West Indies.
"Another day that we can lock in our history and be proud," Shafiq Stanikzai, ACB chief executive, said, however, he also acknowledged that Afghan cricket still has a long way to go. "Every achievement is great, but it opens the door to challenges. We'll be hosting our international matches in Greater Noida and Sharjah, there should be a day when we can host inside Afghanistan."
Finally, the vote is not just an endorsement of each country's respective on-field talents but a seal of approval for the vast improvement that both the nations have shown in the recent past.
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