ILT20: Pakistan’s Shadab and Azam Khan to join Shaheen Afridi at Desert Vipers

Compatriots among the latest signings announced for the second season of UAE's T20 league

Spinner Shadab Khan is the latest Pakistan star to join the DP World ILT20 in the UAE. Getty
Powered by automated translation

Shadab Khan and Azam Khan will join Shaheen Afridi at Desert Vipers for the second season of the DP World International League T20.

The Pakistan trio will bolster a franchise looking to improve on their runners-up finish in the opening campaign of the T20 competition in Dubai earlier this year.

Having unveiled Shaheen earlier this month, the Vipers announced his compatriots were joining, as well as a number of other new signings, on Monday.

Leg-spin bowling all-rounder Shadab Khan has captained Pakistan in 20-over cricket in the past.

Azam, the big hitting wicketkeeper-batter, had been the first Pakistani player recruited by the ILT20 last year.

However, the Pakistan Cricket Board opted against releasing their players for that event. Now, though, they have issued 'no objection' certificates to their players, meaning Azam is available to take up his place with the Vipers.

Tom Moody, the Vipers director of cricket, said the new signings are not just about strengthening their playing resources, but are also with a view to increasing the side’s fanbase.

“We are certainly looking at all our options to continue to build the strongest squad we possibly can, but more importantly to build a team that is not only going to take it one step further in 2024 and not only play in a final but win a final,” Moody said.

“We are also looking to build a squad that our growing fan-base are going to look forward to supporting. The more support we have on the other side of the fence the greater the heights the team can reach.”

Moody praised Shadab’s capabilities as an all-rounder, and said he has a “growing reputation as a respected leader”, and he described Azam as “a real threat”.

“He is a genuine power-hitter that can take the game in a breathtaking way away from the opposition,” the Australian coach said of Azam.

“We look forward to having him as an impact player in the middle-order to join the likes of [Guyanese batter] Sherfane Rutherford, who has continued to show his high level of excellence in the tournament in Canada recently.”

Azam, who is a well-travelled T20 franchise player, featured in Pakistan’s side for internationals against Afghanistan in Sharjah earlier this year. He says he is eager to return to play in the Emirates.

“The UAE fans are crazy about cricket and last season the atmosphere was amazing,” Azam said.

“I am looking forward to this season and hoping to put on some good performances in the tournament.”

Pakistani cricket fans might also appreciate another of the new Vipers recruits, Bas de Leede.

The Dutch all-rounder who was hit in the face by a Haris Rauf bouncer at the T20 World Cup last year, but then played a key role in the Netherlands win over South Africa which helped send Pakistan through to the semi-final in that tournament.

De Leede has swapped from MI Emirates, where he played just one ILT20 game last season.

“Last year we came very close to winning the title and got pipped at the post,” Colin Munro, the Vipers captain, said.

“With the additional players that we have brought in, adding to our retained players, it puts us in a really strong position in the next edition."

Updated: August 21, 2023, 8:06 AM