Mohammed Naveed says being drafted to the Afghanistan Premier League finally helped lift his gloom at missing out on the Asia Cup.
Some of the international Twenty20 circuit’s leading players, such as Chris Gayle, Shahid Afridi and Andre Russell, will be lining up for the new league, to be played in Sharjah next month.
Just five places were available to players from beyond the 12 Test nations when the draft was made at the Hilton Al Habtoor in Dubai on Monday evening.
UAE fast bowler Naveed was the third Associate player picked, after Ryan ten Doeschate of the Netherlands and Nepal’s Sandeep Lamichhane, two players who have played Indian Premier League cricket in the past.
The owners and team management of Kandahar, one of the five franchises in the APL, took just seconds to decide on adding Naveed’s pace bowling to their ranks.
It was a pick-me-up for a player who said he had taken days to get over the UAE’s agonising defeat to Hong Kong in the final of the Asia Cup Qualifier in Malaysia last week.
“This feeling has lifted my belief as I was feeling so low after losing against Hong Kong,” Naveed said.
“I didn’t go outside for two or three days after, but it is part of cricket and part of life. For my name to come up in the APL, it gave me a better feeling.
“I was watching the Facebook Live coverage of the draft, but had stopped, then a friend of mine messaged me to say I’d been selected by Kandahar.
“It is a very big event. There were just five places [for Associate players], so this is good for me.
"I am very happy, my family, friends and UAE teammates all messaged me congratulations. I am very grateful.”
Naveed had become highly-popular in Afghanistan because of his match-winning role in the UAE's stunning win over Zimbabwe at the World Cup Qualifier in Harare in March.
The national team’s win that day helped Afghanistan to advance to next year’s World Cup in England, as one of just two qualifiers alongside West Indies.
“After that match, thousands of people messaged me, saying ‘Bro, thank you, please follow me', or ‘Nedo, please accept my friend request’ and that I was welcome in Afghanistan,” Naveed said.
As well as a number of leading overseas players, the APL will also involve the Afghan national team players, many of whom have had their own profile enhanced by playing in franchise leagues overseas.
“It is a dream to play in our league,” said Mujeeb Ur Rahman, the teenage spinner who rose to prominence with Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League.
“Luckily I will get that chance very soon, and I was not expecting it to happen this soon. Cricket is very popular in Afghanistan and I’m sure Afghan fans will come for every match. It will be a good tournament.”
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