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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

UAE cricketers could be set to compete in Afghanistan T20 Premier League

Star names including McCullum, Gayle, Afridi and Sangakkara are contracted to play in the inaugural tournament held in Sharjah in October

UAE cricket captain Rohan Mustafa. Courtesy ICC
UAE cricket captain Rohan Mustafa. Courtesy ICC

A number of leading UAE cricketers could be in line for another opportunity to play alongside some of the game’s best-known players, after the launch of the Afghanistan T20 Premier League (APL).

The Afghanistan Cricket Board listed a number of global Twenty20 stars that have signalled their intention to play in the new competition, to be staged in Sharjah from October 5 to 23.

The league will have 23 matches, involving five teams representing Afghan provinces - Kabul, Kandahar, Nangarhar, Paktia and Balkh. The organisers said Brendon McCullum, Chris Gayle, Shahid Afridi and Kumar Sangakkara will be contracted to play.

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UAE players, who have been regular rivals for Afghanistan on the field over the past 15 years, might feature, too.

Players from the national team are understood to have had their popularity enhanced in Afghanistan by the role they played in their qualification for next year’s World Cup.

Zimbabwe would have beaten Afghanistan to the last berth in the 2019 World Cup had they beaten UAE in their final pool match at the Qualifier in Harare in March.

However, the likes of Mohammed Naveed, Rohan Mustafa and Rameez Shahzad contributed to a shock win, much to the delight of Afghan cricket supporters.

The inauguration of the new league is another sign of Afghanistan’s growing prominence in cricket. Next year they will play at a World Cup for the second time, while they also played a Test match for the first time earlier this summer.

“The Afghanistan Cricket Board has achieved in its short stint not only the Full Member status of a ICC as well as Test status,” Shafiqullah Stanikzai, the ACB chief executive, said.

“We are delighted that today we witness the launch of our own league which will provide fans an opportunity to watch competitive cricket both at the stadium and on their TV screens.”

As well as the imported talent, the APL will include Afghan internationals like Rashid Khan, Mujeeb-ur-Rahman and Mohammed Nabi.

“We have already endorsed top international players such as Chris Gayle, Shahid Afridi, Brendon McCullum, Misbah ul Haq, Kumar Sangakara, Thisara Perera, Imran Tahir and Tamim Iqbal,” Ashish Sethi, the chief executive of Snixer Sports, the ACB’s investment partner for APL, said the tournament.

“ACB has also produced some great cricketing stars like Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Zadran, Mohammad Nabi and with the APL T20 we look forward to creating a platform for young cricketing stars to showcase their talent.”