New T20 league to have five teams with all matches set to be played in Sharjah next month
Afghanistan cricket added yet another feather to their cap on Monday with the launch of their very own T20 league.
The Afghanistan Premier League (APL) will take place from October 5-23 at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium with five franchises fighting for glory over 23 matches.
Helping put the rising Asian side’s league on the world map will be star names such as Shahid Afridi, Chris Gayle, Andre Russell, Shoaib Malik among a host of renowned Afghan names like Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Zadran.
Around 400 names have been finalised for the draft that will take place next week. The teams have been split on provincial lines in Afghanistan; they are Kabul, Kandahar, Nangarhar, Paktia and Balkh.
vRock Mobile, an Indian company, has won the rights to the Paktia franchise while another Indian entity – Legendary Man Entertainment – will own the Balkh team.
Three other teams are up for grabs with the organisers suggesting two heavyweight T20 franchise owners are close to buying franchise rights in APL.
Franchisees will have to operate with a salary budget of $555,000 up to $700,000. Teams have an option of a minimum 17 players ($555,000) and can go up to 20 players ($700,000).
Players will be picked through a draft with cricketers divided into categories like Icon players, Diamond players, Gold players and Emerging players.
According to Shafiqullah Stanikzai – CEO of Afghanistan Cricket Board – the following which Afghan cricket has not only back home but also in the UAE and the Indian subcontinent should make the tournament a raging success.
“The APL will be among the top three leagues in the world in coming two to three years. The viewership that we have across the globe and especially in the Indian market is big. After their own team, the most watched team in India is Afghanistan,” Stanikzai told Sport360.
“Asian subcontinent is the biggest market and timing of Afghanistan Premier League will suit that. The style of cricket that Afghanistan has brought to global cricket is our biggest advantage.”
Ashish Sethi, CEO Snixer Sports – investment partners of APL – said the league has immense potential and it will be an opportunity for the world to see the talent Afghanistan cricket has.
“You will get to see a lot of raw talent. If you see IPL and Big Bash, they have a few (Afghan) players you are aware of. Here you will see players you haven’t even heard of. We look forward to have many more Rashids and Nabis,” Sethi told Sport360.
Sethi is confident that once the league is up and running, turning a profit will only be a matter of time.
“We expect to reach break-even by the third year and fourth year onwards we should make profits. We have controlled expenses. We have kept the player purse very comfortable. We don’t want franchises to bleed.”
Stanikzai sees the league as an opportunity to not only provide more financial opportunities to Afghan cricketers but also put a larger pool on the radar of franchises from across the planet.
“Financially, our players will be good. Though ACB runs a system where we have 200 full-time professional cricketers, this league will help Afghanistan cricket enormously. Secondly, you can only give opportunities to 11 players in your national side. This league will give exposure to the talent we have in Afghanistan.
“I am quite sure in next year or so, we will have 10 to 20 players in the IPL. Afghanistan will be a hot pick for franchise cricket.”