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Afghans get hero’s welcome after qualifying for WC – Zimbabwean official banned for 20 years

HARARE, Zimbabwe, March 27, (Agencies): A Zimbabwean official has been banned for 20 years by the International Cricket Council after being found guilty of match-fixing charges.

Rajan Nayer, who was an influential board member of Zimbabwe’s cricket governing body until 2015, was initially suspended and charged for approaching Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer with an offer of $30 000 to influence the outcome of a game during the African team’s home test series with the West Indies last October.

Immediately after charges were laid, the Harare Metropolitan Cricket Association, the country’s largest domestic cricket body, removed Nayer from his position as its marketing director.

“The International Cricket Council (ICC) today announced that it has suspended Rajan Nayer from all cricket activity for 20 years after he accepted a charge of breaching the ICC Anti-Corruption Code,” the ICC said in a statement.

“I welcome the result of the investigation and the substantial sanction imposed upon Mr Nayer. It is important that the seriousness of his offences were reflected in the length of ban,” said ICC official Alex Marshall, the body’s Anti-Corruption Unit general manager.

“I would like to place on record my thanks to Graeme Cremer, who has acted with the utmost professionalism throughout this process. Immediately after he received the approach from Mr Nayer he reported it to the ICC and we were able to get an investigation underway swiftly. Graeme has been involved and updated throughout the investigation and has played a critical role in ensuring that corruption has no place in our sport.”

Cremer, who first informed coach Heath Streak of Nayer’s advances, said: “I was appalled to be approached by someone so closely connected to the game and there was no doubt in my mind that I had to report it as soon as I could. We receive education around this which you never expect to have to use, but it certainly helped when it came to knowing what to do.”

Nayer, a Zimbabwean citizen of Indian origin, has been involved in cricket administration in the country for many years.

After his suspension by ICC, Nayer also lost his position as chairman of the Old Hararians club, an iconic institution in Zimbabwean cricket which in the past produced top players like Duncan Fletcher, Dave Houghton, Trevor Penney and Graeme Hick.

Afghanistan’s cricket team received a hero’s welcome when they returned to Kabul on Tuesday, fresh from winning the World Cup qualifying final and securing a spot in the 2019 tournament.

After touching down in the Afghan capital, the team was whisked away to a special ceremony where they were met with standing ovations from an invitation-only crowd.

Afghanistan had looked set to miss out on a second straight World Cup appearance after suffering a series of defeats in the group stage.

But they turned their performance around and Sunday’s final win over the West Indies in Zimbabwe gave them their fifth victory in a row as they qualified with help from results elsewhere.

Captain Asghar Stanikzai, holding the winner’s trophy, led his teammates up a red carpet through an honour guard of Afghan children in traditional dress, who threw red rose petals over the smiling players.

The team’s remarkable recovery showed “we are able to fight hard”, Stanikzai told AFP. His team will play their maiden Test match against India in Bangalore in June.

“Afghanistan has changed quite a lot compared to what it was in previous years. The other teams should understand that we are a strong and rising team and we will try our best to put on a good show (in 2019),” he added.

For security reasons ordinary Afghan cricket fans were not allowed to welcome the players on their return to Kabul, but supporters have flooded social media in recent days to pay tribute to the team.

Their victory was also met with celebratory gunfire, fireworks and honking of horns throughout the Afghan capital.

“Congratulations team Afghanistan for this remarkable victory,” Motiullah Mutmaen wrote on Twitter.

“You have a fighting spirit which makes you a dangerous team who can beat any team on any given day.”

Aymal Khan Jalal posted on Facebook: “You have finally managed to put a smile on our faces!”

Leg-spin sensation Rashid Khan, who became the fastest bowler ever to reach 100 one-day international wickets in the West Indies match, said making the World Cup was a “dream” come true.

“The team we have right now and the talent we have, it’s a world class team. We just need to believe in ourselves,” Khan told AFP.

Bangladesh cricket authorities said Tuesday they were in talks with former South African batsman Gary Kirsten to hire him as a team consultant for an extended period.

Bangladesh have been looking for a head coach for the national cricket team since October, after former Sri Lankan opener Chandika Hathurusingha stepped down. But Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) spokesperson Jalal Yunus said they had offered Kirsten, 50, who was India’s coach when they won the 2011 World Cup, a different role unlike that of a head coach.

“He is on our list but he will come only as a team consultant. It’s not final, though. Hopefully we will be able to strike a deal after the Indian Premier League,” Yunus said.

Kirsten, who played 101 Tests and 185 one-day internationals for South Africa before coaching the Proteas and India, will be in charge of Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL, which begins on April 7.

“If he agrees, he will also work with the Under-19 and the A-team and give us advice about cricket structure,” Yunus said. The BCB said it would appoint a separate head coach for the national team even if it reached an agreement with Kirsten.

“He will not always be with the team, he will deal with separate issues, work with development squads like what Eddie Barlow did. He (Kirsten) will give advice but there will be a head coach.”

Former South African great Barlow was Bangladesh’s coaching director when the country achieved Test status in 2000.

Former West Indies great Courtney Walsh acted as Bangladesh’s head coach during the recent Nidahas Trophy Twenty20 triangular tournament in Sri Lanka, in which they narrowly lost to India in the final.

Yunus revealed that they are also in talks with former South African batsman Neil McKenzie as a possible batting consultant.

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