The Afghanistan Premier League is a new, five-team Twenty20 competition, to be played in Sharjah over the course of the next three weeks.
It involves several of the game’s most recognisable players, including Shahid Afridi, Chris Gayle, Brendon McCullum, Rashid Khan and Mohammed Shahzad.
“It is a kind of dream,” Rashid, the Afghanistan leg-spinner, said. “Every country has their own league, and finally we have this, thanks to the hard work of the [Afghanistan Cricket Board]. It felt impossible to have it in such a short period of time, but they have done it.”
There is one UAE player involved. Mohammed Naveed, the national team’s fast bowler, will be in action for Kandahar Knights.
Run the ACB, it is being hosted at Sharjah Cricket Stadium, which has played host to the majority of Afghanistan’s “home” international matches in the past.
“We feel proud to be associated with them, and proud they are up in the top 10 teams in the world,” Mazhar Khan, the Sharjah Cricket Council administrator, said.
“Afghanistan has had very good support right from Day 1 in this part of the world. I am sure there will be a lot of crowd to handle.”
The Cricket Pod
The tournament starts on Friday, October 5. The final is on Saturday, October 20, starting at 8pm.
All the matches will be played at Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
Tickets can be bought online at https://www.q-tickets.com/apl/eventlist and at the box office at the stadium.
The tournament will be broadcast live in the UAE on OSN Sports.
Opening weekend fixtures
Friday, October 5, 8pm: Kabul Zwanan v Paktia Panthers
Saturday, October 6, 4pm: Nangarhar Leopards v Kandahar Knights; 8pm: Kabul Zwanan v Balkh Legends
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Captain: Mohammed Nabi (Afghanistan)
Coach: Simon Helmot (Australia)
Star player: Chris Gayle (West Indies). While the West Indies Test side take on India in Rajkot, their celebrated T20 export will be adding a new shirt to his collection in the APL instead.
Captain: Rashid Khan (Afghanistan)
Coach: Heath Streak (Zimbabwe)
Star player: Luke Ronchi (New Zealand). The shorter the format, the more destructive the former New Zealand wicket-keeper batsman is. A star of the T10 League in Sharjah last year.
Captain: Asghar Afghan (Afghanistan)
Coach: Kabir Ali (England)
Star player: Kevin O'Brien (Ireland). Relatively rarely-spotted in T20 franchise leagues, despite having the big-hitting capabilities that brought him the fastest ever World Cup hundred, in 2011.
Captain: Ben Cutting (Australia)
Coach: Venkatesh Prasad (India)
Star player: Mujeeb Ur Rahman (Afghanistan). Andre Russell is perhaps the best-known star of the Nangarhar squad, but 17-year-old spinner Mujeeb could well be their most effective.
Captain: Mohammed Shahzad (Afghanistan)
Coach: Dawlat Ahmadzai (Afghanistan)
Star player: Shahid Afridi (Pakistan). With Shahzad and Afridi in their line-up, Paktia might turn out to be the most explosive and entertaining side in the APL.