Flanked by high-ranking members of the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Shaharyar Khan joined the panel in declaring that the two countries will not “mix politics with sports” and bilateral cricketing series between the two will continue at all age-groups. While it is doubtless that this is a sensible attitude to take going forwards, it is difficult to claim that politics has nothing to do with the sport; the necessity of this joint declaration only arose in the context of the worsening relations between the two nations and the rising tension in South-Asia.

Even while making the statement that politics and sports don’t mix the heads of the two cricketing boards fielded questions on matters such as the willingness of the two nation’s governments to work together and whether India would also be willing to play matches in Afghanistan. While the questions addressed cricketing issues, the undertone of regional politics was inescapable.

It is not entirely problematic that this was so; in an environment of mutual mistrust and absence of meaningful cooperation, bilateral cricket matches between the two nations and material support of grassroots cricket in Afghanistan by the PCB is the most effective, and at the moment, the only form of diplomatic outreach possible.

While this will not solve the outstanding issues between the two nations, cooperation on tangential subjects will keep both nations engaged with each other, and both populations humanised. The sequester of sporting ties between India and Pakistan – from barring Pakistani cricketers and Kabbadi players, to the refusal to play bilateral contests – has erected a veritable wall between the two nations that has diminished cultural exchange to a minimum. The efforts of the PCB and ACB must be lauded for ensuring that such a situation is not faced by Pakistan and Afghanistan.

From the sport’s perspective this is a great decision. The economy of cricket is such that only by playing with more established and prosperous teams can newcomers to the sport gain funds and recognitions. Cricket is a fast emerging sport in Afghanistan, its development at all levels is a crucial to make the cricketing pool more diverse and competitive.

While the failure of the bilateral series with India can be justifiably placed on India’s doorstep, the PCB must not allow the agreements with the ACB to lapse – this is within their control. Ultimately it benefits both nations, and as such it must be a top priority.