Pakistan’s restive northwestern tribal areas bordering Afghanistan Friday made cricket history by qualifying in the country’s premier first-class tournament for the first time.
The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) team won all three matches in the qualifying rounds and earned one of the two qualifying spots for the regions in the main round of the Trophy starting October 26.
“It’s a great achievement for our region which has been hit by terrorism but since the military operation interest in cricket has increased manifold,” Noor-ul-Haq, president of FATA cricket region told AFP.
FATA, which was given region status only in 2013, beat northwestern Abbottabad by nine wickets, eastern Faisalabad by ten wickets and a much fancied southern Karachi team by 81 runs.
Pakistan’s Islamist insurgency began after the US-led invasion of neighbouring Afghanistan in 2001 which led to a spillover of militants across the border and a surge in recruitment for Pakistani militant groups in tribal areas.
Haq said the promotion will help cricket on the frontier a great deal.
“Cricket is a very popular game in FATA and this promotion in the main rounds will help us attract more sponsorships and build more facilities for the game,” said Haq.
Haq said boys in the tribal and adjoining areas now love to play cricket.
“There were times when boys were reluctant to come to the ground but after the operation by security forces they now feel safe in playing the game which has made a difference,” said Haq.
In June last year the Pakistani military launched an extensive operation in North Waziristan tribal area against Taliban militants.
Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Shaharyar Khan praised FATA’s achievement.
“I must praise FATA’s promotion to the main rounds and it showed the region was producing some splendid players and that reflected in their performances with both bat and ball,” Khan said in a statement.
Khan promised more opportunities for the region.
“FATA’s defeating bigger teams is reflective of talent as well as the hard work of the players, coaching staff and management of the region.
“On our first circuit, the FATA Region’s cricketers would get greater opportunities to express themselves while playing against the more accomplished outfits on our domestic circuit.”