Shaheen Afridi set for ILT20 as Desert Vipers confirm signing Pakistan pace ace

Fans’ favourite to return to UAE after agreeing three-year deal with 2023 runners-up

Pakistan's Shaheen Afridi will play in the DP World International League T20. AP
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Desert Vipers have confirmed the signing of Shaheen Shah Afridi.

The organisers of the DP World International League T20 recently announced Pakistan players would be available to play when the competition returns for its second season in January.

The Vipers, who were runners-up in the inaugural edition of the UAE franchise competition back in February, are the first side to announce a Pakistan star will be joining their ranks.

They teased the news on Sunday when they posted a none-too-cryptic message on social media.

The post on X included an eagle emoji, a green sports car with the No 10 on the number plate, as well the speed of 145kmh.

The franchise and the league confirmed on Monday that the left-arm fast bowler has agreed a three-year contract with the Vipers.

Shaheen, who was the ICC men’s cricketer of the year in 2021, has become one of the most prized assets in the world in the short format.

He led Lahore Qalandars to a second successive Pakistan Super League title earlier this year and has excelled in the Hundred in the UK this summer.

He was off limits when the ILT20 launched back in January. Once the Pakistan Cricket Board agreed to release its players to play in the new UAE league, though, the Vipers acted fast.

“Shaheen is a player of world-class calibre who has had a significant impact not only for Pakistan but for every team he’s played for in recent times,” Tom Moody, the Vipers director of cricket, said.

“He offers a huge amount as an impact pace bowler that has destroyed many, many top-orders and he also boasts terrific leadership skills that will add a huge amount of value to the Desert Vipers moving forward.

“We are thrilled to have secured such a high-profile player, and a player who is so highly regarded in world cricket.”

Shaheen’s arrival is likely to be valuable for the league itself. The majority of the first season was played out in front of small crowds.

However, Shaheen could be a box-office draw given his popularity among the large population of cricket-loving Pakistani supporters in the UAE.

His involvements in the T20 World Cup in 2021 in Dubai, and the Asia Cup a year later at the same venue, in particular were spellbinding.

“I am excited to join the Desert Vipers,” Shaheen was quoted as saying.

“I know there are many Pakistan cricket fans in the UAE, and I hope they will support our team in the upcoming ILT20.”

Shaheen will join a pace attack which also includes fellow left-armers Luke Wood and Sheldon Cottrell.

The Vipers have also retained Colin Munro, Alex Hales and Wanindu Hasaranga in their squad, as well as UAE players Rohan Mustafa and Ali Naseer.

Updated: August 14, 2023, 8:00 AM