Afghanistan Set to Launch T20 League of it’s own in 2018
The rise of cricket in Afghanistan looks set to continue this year, with the Afghanistan Cricket Board’s announcement that they will launch a T20 competition of their own in 2018. The Afghanistan Premier League will take over the role of the primary T20 competition in the country from the Shpageeza Cricket League, and is expected to draw significantly more interest. The SCL will continue to be played, however it will remain a domestic league, in contrast to the international APL.
Details of the league
The league will kick off in October, one of the only months of the year in which there is no other global T20 league taking place. The international T20 calendar is becoming increasingly busier, and Afghanistan have managed to latch onto one of the last remaining months in which they will not face significant competition for both players, and viewers.
Five teams will take part in the inaugural APL, and 23 games in total will be played. The games will be played in the United Arab Emirates, adding further to the growing list of games played in the Middle Eastern nation.
The draft for the league is scheduled to take place in March, though the quality of the players expected to nominate is as yet unknown. Reportedly, there are around 40 players from outside of Afghanistan who have demonstrated a desire to join the league. Presumably, a bulk of these will come from other Asian cricketing nations.
What does this mean for cricket in Afghanistan?
The announcement of this league is a huge step forward for cricket in Afghanistan, which is already enjoying a fruitful few months. In June of this year, they were granted status as an ICC Full Member. This allowed them to schedule Test Matches against other Test playing nations, and in December, it was confirmed that they would play their inaugural Test against India in India. The exact date of the game is yet to be determined, but it has been confirmed that it will take place in 2018.
Clearly this was a major step forward for cricket in Afghanistan, and was just reward for years of consistent hard work at developing the game in the country. The scheduling of a Test Match, particularly against a side as influential and high quality as India, was a huge coup, and will likely have major benefits in terms of support of the game on a global level in the country.
The addition of an international T20 league hosted by the country will only further this. Long suffering fans in the country are beginning to see rewards for years following a developing side receiving very minimal global recognition.
Given the names of the international players interested in participating in the league is as yet unknown, it is difficult to forecast how the APL will look in it’s first year. Realistically, it is unlikely the group of 40 players will contain many of the world’s best players, particularly given how congested the cricket calendar is for such players. Every league must start somewhere though, and the fact that there is already significant interest in the league is a major positive. Given time, and if properly managed, this league will hopefully grow to be a major event on the global cricketing calendar. If it does, Afghanistan cricket will benefit enormously, something which would be well deserved.