Afghanistan has come a long way as a cricket nation in recent years. They were granted affiliate status with the ICC as recently as 2001, before becoming an associate member in 2013 and then a full member in 2012.
They impressed on the world stage, propelled Afghanistan cricket into the public conscious, and in 2018 they took the next leap in creating the Afghanistan Premier League.
The Afghanistan Premier League was approved by the ICC in August 2018. It is run by the Afghanistan Cricket Board, who are headquartered in Kabul and act as the official governing body of cricket in the country.
The first Afghanistan Premier League season took place over a few weeks in October, 2018, with five teams competing across a total of 23 matches. All games in the inaugural season took place at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, which had recently broken the record for hosting the most ODIs of any cricket ground. The stadium had hosted many big names in the past and also held some significance for Afghanistan, after hosting many of their biggest games.
The Afghanistan Premier League, which is often shortened to “APL”, is a short tournament using the Twenty-20 format. Due to issues in its home country, the games take place in the United Arab Emirates, a country that has also hosted games from Indian leagues, as well as the Indian national team.
The organisers seemingly chose the month of October because it didn’t clash with any other major cricketing leagues. The Indian Premier League, Pakistan Premier League, Big Bash League and Super Smash all take place prior to September and are finished when October begins, while major leagues in Bangladesh and South Africa don’t kick off until the end of the year.
The Afghanistan Premier League is nestled in what had been a fairly quiet period prior to 2018, ensuring there was plenty of support from cricketers around the world while also giving players a chance to shake off those pre-season cobwebs and try their hand in a new league.
Initially, five teams were chosen to take part in the Afghanistan Premier League, each representing a different region of the country. These teams were:
Along with many Afghanistan based players, the Afghanistan Premier League has also played host to countless overseas players, becoming as much of a draw for international talent as T20 leagues in more accomplished cricketing nations. Some of the biggest international players to show up for Afghanistan Premier League games include Chris Gayle, who stepped up for the Balkh Legends during their first season; and Brendon McCullum, who attracted a lot of attention when he was announced for the Kandahar Knights.