Diplomacy and sport are converging as the Afghanistan cricket team visits Australia ahead of its first World Cup appearance in 2015.
It’s the latest diplomatic pitch – bats and balls can bring peace.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop met members of the Afghanistan cricket team in Canberra on Thursday.
The team, led by 29-year-old Mohammad Nabi, are in Australia to prepare them for their first appearance at a 50-over World Cup which will be co-hosted with New Zealand in 2015.
Having just returned from United Nations anti-terrorism talks in New York, Ms Bishop said the World Cup was a common topic of conversation.
“Sports-loving nations can put aside their differences, they put aside tensions and they focus on the game,” she said, adding that doing so broadened and deepened engagement.
The federal government has provided funding for equipment, uniforms and other supplies for the fledgling Afghanistan team.
Mr Nadi said the visit had been important for his team.
“There are quite different conditions between Asia and Australia,” he said.
The coaching team includes former Queensland wicket-keeper Peter Anderson and English coach Andy Moles.
Afghanistan’s ambassador to Australia, Nasir Andisha, said qualifying for the World Cup had been a great achievement.
“We have a real passion for sport and cricket – it is one of the best stories out of Afghanistan,” he said.
Afghanistan will take on Australia, England, Bangladesh, New Zealand and Scotland during the group stage of the World Cup.
The national capital’s Manuka Oval will host the Bangladesh game on February 18, as well as two others: West Indies v Zimbabwe on February 24 and South Africa v Ireland on March 3.