China-Afghan-Pak diplomacy takes cricket route

CHINA : A month after the foreign ministers of China, Pakistan and Afghanistan mooted the idea of a friendly game of cricket, a group of young cricketers from Pakistan and Afghanistan landed in Beijing last week to ride on a high-speed train to play cricket in a middle school in Jinan in China’s eastern province of Shandong.

The ‘China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Youth Cricket Friendship Games’ organised October 16-24 was the follow-up to the third session of China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue last month. It was in Islamabad on September 7 that Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi along with his Afghan and and Chinese counterparts, Salahuddin Rabbani and Wang Yi, “welcomed plans to hold a trilateral friendly cricket tournament” in China.

According to local media reports in Shandong, the match was held “to promote friendly exchanges, solidarity and mutual trust” and “to promote the construction of the ‘Belt and Road’ and enhance the friendship between the three countries”. A report in Pakistan’s BaaghiTV quoted the team’s coach saying the Under-16 players were all-rounders and were in China to “introduce cricket to Chinese youth”, given Pakistan and China’s friendly relations. A team of 20 youngsters from various schools in Kabul made up the Afghanistan team.

The friendly matches saw mixed teams of China-Afghanistan face-off with China-Pakistan. On October 20, the former beat the latter by six wickets, noted local reports. A report in Pakistani media said that the teams were mixed to “give Chinese cricketers much-needed exposure” by playing with international teams

The match was hosted by the Asian Department of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the General Administration of Sports, along with the Shandong Provincial Sports Bureau.

On Thursday, the closing ceremony of the games, co-organised by Tsinghua University, was held in Beijing.