Shafiqullah Stanikzai, CEO of the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) announces the staging of Afghanistan Premier League (APL) at Sharjah Cricket Stadium in October. Waleed Bukhatir of Sharjah Cricket Club, Atif Mashal, chairman of ACB and Ashish Sethi, CEO of APL were present. Image Credit: Courtesy: Organisers

Dubai: Afghanistan, the International Cricket Council’s youngest full member alongwith Ireland, launched its own Twenty20 league to be known as Afghanistan Premier League (APL) in a colourful ceremony held at the Intercontinental Hotel on Monday night.

This league, with renowned T20 stars from around the world, is scheduled to be held at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium from October 5-23. Nearly 400 international cricketers have registered their names to play in the league, which will be contested by five teams named after the regions. The players’ draft will be held during the first week of next month.

Speaking to Gulf News after the launch, Shafiqullah Stanikzai, the Chief Executive Officer of the Afghanistan Cricket Board, said: “The charisma that Afghanistan cricket team has brought into the cricketing world will be seen in this league too. We are expecting to stage a real big cricketing event in this part of the world. APL will be one of the big Twenty20 franchise leagues in the world.”

Stanikzai, a cricketer-turned-administrator, said: “The teams will be named after the five regions of Afghanistan namely Kabul, Kandahar, Nangarhar, Paktia and Balkh. It will be a 23 match event and we are thankful to Sharjah Cricket Stadium for being the hosts and Emirates Cricket Board to have endorsed the event. The league will be a platform for local and international players to showcase their talent, provide a landscape for the development of coaching and playing infrastructures, mentor emerging cricketers and engage with fans all over the world.”

Ashish Sethi of Snixer Sports, the event managers, said: “We are thrilled by the response from players around the world to play in the league. With players like Chris Gayle, Shahid Afridi, Brendon McCullum, Misbah-Ul Haq, Kumar Sangakkara, Imran Tahir, Tamim Iqbal and Afghanistan hero Rashid Khan playing in the league, the stature of the event is bound to be high.”

The APL will also see players from associate countries too getting a chance to play in it. Stanikzai confirmed that top UAE players will be included in the league.

Waleed Bukhatir of Sharjah Cricket Stadium lauded ACB’s efforts. “We are proud of the growth of Afghanistan cricket. Nine years ago Abdul Rehman Bukhatir opened up the Sharjah stadium for Afghanistan to play all their international matches. While saluting Bukhatir’s vision, we also appreciate Afghanistan for making us all proud through their cricket and now getting ready to even stage a Twenty20 League.”

The launch function took off with Atif Mashal, the chairman of the Afghanistan Cricket Board addressing the gathering. He said: “We thank Abdul Rahman Bukhatir and the Bukhatir family for their support and the International Cricket Council for their approval. Their support has been immense and we now look forward to stage an exciting league.”