The winners of the inaugural edition of the Afghanistan Premier League (APL) Balkh Legends team pose with the trophy. Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: One of the world’s best cricketers has joined team captain Mohammad Nabi to declare their Balkh Legends as worthy winners of the inaugural edition of the Afghanistan Premier League (APL).

Considered one of the most devastating batsmen, Chris Gayle played a rather subdued knock of 56 to see his team Balkh Legends claim the champions’ trophy with a four-wicket win over the Rashid Khan-led Kabul Zwanan at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium late on Sunday.

Dropped on a couple of occasions, Gayle was thrilled after receiving the ‘Most Stylish Player of the Day’ and ‘Most Sixes’ awards while assisting in his team winning the trophy. But it was teenager Qais Ahmad setting up victory while claiming five for 18 in his four overs after Zwanan skipper Rashid Khan had elected to bat.

“In the end we played like champions and we deserve this trophy,” Gayle told media.

“It feels great to be a champion man. This has been a fantastic tournament and all the guys in our team have worked hard to be here. I must commend [Mohammad] Nabi for his leadership and also the youngsters for raising their game when needed to do so. All chipped in and did their part and I am glad to be part of this champion side in the inaugural edition,” the former West Indies’ captain added.

Going by the success of this event, Gayle predicted that a lot more overseas players will be eyeing an entry into the APL next year. “There are always new things to be done and I think we are going to have a lot more players coming into this one. On my part, I can guarantee some more players from the West Indies coming. But right now, it is time to enjoy and the celebrations will start later,” he winked.

Balkh Legends’ captain Mohammad Nabi remained modest in his assessment. “Yes, we are worthy winners in the end, but a team is as good as its captain. We can have the best captain but if the players don’t deliver then there is nothing much that one can do,” Nabi related.

“The fact remains that this tournament has attracted the attention of the entire cricketing world. This has been a fantastic platform and suddenly our performances are getting noticed at the highest stages, be it in the PSL, CPL or the Big Bash. We are very much in the reckoning all around the world,” he added.

Asked to explain the secret behind his team’s success, Nabi said: “We placed a lot of emphasis on team work and individual effort, irrespective of whether it was Gayle, Bopara or the junior most in the squad. And that I feel eventually contributed towards the success of the entire team.”

AWARDS

Stylish Player of the Day: Chris Gayle

Most Sixes on the Day: Chris Gayle

Man of the Match: Qais Ahmad

Catch of the Tournament: Hazratullah Zazai

Emerging Player of the Tournament: Darwish Rasooli

Best Bowler of the Tournament: Isuru Udana (17 wickets)

Best Batsman of the Tournament: Mohammad Shahzad (344 runs)

Man of the Tournament: Rashid Khan