cricket

The journey of Afghanistan players to IPL

They rose from a war-torn country and three of them are only around 19 years old

By K. R. NayarChief Cricket Writer
20:25 May 11, 2018
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Dubai: The Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises pick only the best cricketers from around the world. In the 11th edition of this league there are four players from Afghanistan and of them three are just around 19 years old, which certainly is a big achievement.

To rise to the stage of being considered to play in the most prestigious T20 tournament in the world, despite hailing from a war-torn country, is remarkable. The fact that three of them are teenagers makes it even more splendid.

Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi, Mujeeb Zadran and Zahir Khan Pakteen are the four who made Afghanistan fans proud by reaching the IPL.

Rashid is so talented that he is being talked about as one of the best leg spinners in the world. He has shown the way for many youngsters in Afghanistan to dream high, work hard and gain international fame.

The two youngsters — 17-year-old Mujeeb Zadran and 19-year-old Zahir Khan — are cricketers who have followed Rashid’s ways to success.

Rashid was picked by Sunrisers Hyderabad for a whopping $1.41 million. This team used their used their Right to Match (RTM) card to retain him. In fact, his base price was $313,600. His fame had spread soon after he played in the 2017 edition of the IPL in which he took 17 wickets from 14 games at a super economy rate of 6.62 for Hyderabad.

100 more games

Last week, after playing in his 100th Twenty20 match, Rashid confidently remarked: “Feels great to perform well and play 100 games. Want to be fit and play 100 more games.”

Rashid’s bowling is such that coaches around the world are closely examining his bowling action to find answers to tackle him. Yet, Rashid bamboozles the batsmen with new deliveries.

Zadran, who wants to emulate Rashid, has already started making waves. At 17, he is the youngest player ever to be picked by an IPL franchise in the history of the tournament.

He earned that honour by working hard to sharpen his off spin and producing great spells in Under-19 international tournaments. It was his five-wicket spell that helped Afghanistan beat Pakistan in the Under-19 Asia Cup final and get noticed by Kings XI Punjab. This franchise bought him for a $629,200. Interestingly his base price was just $78,650.

Similarly, Zahir who is a fine left-arm Chinaman bowler was picked by Rajasthan Royals. He is so promising that this franchise got him for $31,460. Though he hasn’t been played by the franchise this youngster is learning a lot from the legendary spinner Shane Warne who is Rajasthan team’s mentor.

Though these three are on the path to long years of international cricket, it was Mohammad Nabi who made franchises take a look at the talent in Afghanistan players. He had proved to be a fine all-rounder who bowls off spin with accuracy and bats at the middle order. Hyderabad got him for $157,300 from his base price of $78,650. Nabi plays in almost all the top T20 leagues in the world though Hyderabad has not played him in many matches this season.

Big role

Sharjah Cricket Stadium had played a big role in giving these youngsters the required facilities to sharpen their skills. Since Afghanistan could not stage their international matches in their country due to security reasons, it is at the Sharjah stadium that they used to display their talents.

Abdul Rehman Bukhatir, who owns the Sharjah stadium after allowing Afghanistan players to use the stadium said: “Bearing in mind the difficulties they have in Afghanistan, the cricketers deserve to have a place somewhere where they can come and feel that they are at home. Here they have huge local support and they can make full use of all facilities in the Sharjah stadium, including the gymnasium and nets.”

Today Afghanistan players are not only in demand but they are on the verge of becoming Test players. The journey of talented Afghanistan players to IPL and ICC World Cup is now being talked about as a fairy-tale story of world cricket.

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Afghanistan Premier League in UAE

Dubai. The influence of IPL has been so much on their players that Afghanistan Cricket Board has decided to stage their own league in October at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium. The board has announced that the first edition will be a five-team event and be called the Afghanistan Premier League Twenty20 cricket tournament.

Afghanistan Cricket Board Chairman Shukrullah Atif Mashal has revealed that over 40 overseas cricketers will be playing in the APL T20. ACB Chief Executive Officer Shafiqullah Asamat Stanikzai, speaking about the passion for cricket in Afghanistan, said: “Cricket has been a unifying tool, contributing to peace, development and stability in the country. It will open the doors for youngsters inside the country and around the globe. The Board aims to make APL T20 to be among the world’s top three leagues.”

So far Afghanistan had staged only their domestic league called the Shpageeza Cricket League. Mashal went on to thank their government for the support to stage the event in UAE. “We are thankful to the overseas cricketers for helping Afghanistan cricket rise to the next level. We are grateful to our Government for its support and encouragement. We believe we can provide our youth the platform to shine and move away from negative influences.”