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Afghanistan is the fastest growing cricket nation around the world and its people have a huge appetite for the game. It is no surprise then that the Afghanistan Cricket Board is as out to host its version of franchise T20 cricket, something the IPL and BBL made popular around the world. The tournament is going to be played in UAE over the next few days with a total of 23 matches being played between 5 teams.
There are some well known T20 Stars that will be joining the competition and it should definitely provide a boost the visibility of several Afghan players. The first match is between Kabul Zwanan and the Paktia Panthers.
There are some excellent players to choose from when it comes to the Kabul squad. The world’s top-ranked T20 bowler and all-rounder, Rashid Khan headlines this team. He is easily Afghanistan’s best-known player across the world and can be expected to provide much of the quality that he showcases in international cricket and other T20 leagues around the world.
The Kabul team also has some excellent overseas players in its squad. Luke Ronchi from New Zealand, Colin Ingram from South Africa, Sohail Tanvir from Pakistan, Laurie Evans from England, Wayne Parnell from South Africa, and Ali Khan from the United States of America.
While Ronchi, Colin Ingram, and Wayne Parnell can hope to make the starting eleven with ease, it will be interesting to see if Ali Khan’s latest heroics in the CPL are enough to take him past players like Sohail Tanvir.
Ronchi, Ingram, Hazratullah Zazai, Javed Ahmadi, and Afsar Zazai make for a decent batting lineup. The Afghan players in this list have international experience and are rated pretty highly as well. All-rounders like Rashid Khan, Wayne Parnell or Sohail Tanvir can also contribute with the bat down the order.
With some very decent bowlers on show as well, the Kabul team definitely looks like one of the better squads in this competition. The question of leadership is going to be important, though, because Rashid Khan struggled as a captain the last time he took charge of Afghanistan in the World Cup Qualifiers.
There is enough T20 experience in this side to ensure the team is competitive no matter who the opposition is.
Hazratullah Zazai, Luke Ronchi, MJ Ahmadi, Laurie Evans, Shahidullah Kamal, Rashid Khan, WD Parnell, Muslim Musa, Ali Khan, Farid Malik, Zahir Shirzad.
The Paktia Panthers have one of the most recognizable names in these parts, Shahid Afridi, as a part of their squad. Afridi may not be playing international cricket anymore but he has remained a potent force in T20 cricket. His batting is always a lottery which comes off now and then but the consistency of his bowling cannot be questioned.
Afridi is a very popular figure in these parts and will ensure that the Panthers have a steady fan base from the first match.
The Panthers also have Mohammad Shahzad, the unmistakable Afghan international wicketkeeper, as a part of their squad. Shahzad scored a brilliant hundred in the Asia Cup against India and his team will be hoping he can carry some form into the APL as well.
The team’s overseas players are pretty decent too. They have Cameron Delport, Calum MacLeod, Isuru Udana, and Sikandar Raza apart from Shahid Afridi. We are not sure how well Delport and MacLeod will fare on the slow, spinner friendly pitch of Sharjah but they do have a lot of T20 pedigree.
Sikandar Raza is an excellent player of spin and can bowl as well, he should be in the playing eleven according to us.
Samiullah Shenwari is also a good T20 player but there is an overall lack of known quality in this side. It is safe to assume that anyone playing exceptionally on the Afghan domestic circuit would have been close to making the national squad. Since most of the players are not in that category, the Panthers may find it tough to compete effectively.
One of the overseas players will have to have an excellent match or one of the unknown Afghanistan players will have to come to the fore for this team to be successful.
M Shahzad, Ihsanullah, C Delport, Calum MacLeod, Sikandar Raza, Samiullah Shenwari, SMSK Afridi, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Ziaur Rahman, Yousuf Zazai, Tahir Adil.
The team winning the toss is likely to field first
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The conditions in Sharjah are going to be hot. Asia Cup was very difficult for the teams and they ended up resting players in between matches. It is difficult to imagine what playing a number of matches in a short duration will do to the overseas players not used to this heat.
The pitch is going to be slow and devoid of any help to the bowlers initially. A score of about 150 should be considered par. Run-scoring will become tougher as the ball becomes older.
Kabul Zwanan to win