When Ravi Bopara received an offer to play in the newly-formed Afghanistan Premier League (APL), he accepted it gladly.

He began his newest innings on the right foot, striking an unbeaten 38 off 21 balls to guide Balkh Legends to an eight-wicket victory against Kabul Zwanan at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium here on Saturday.

Bopara, who could not quite live up to the huge expectations following his three hundreds in as many Test innings for England in 2009, said he chose to play in the APL because he wanted to support the new tournament.

“This league is very important for Afghanistan’s cricket,” he told The Hindu. “This will help them become one of the most challenging teams in cricket, especially in the ODI variety.”

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The attractive batsman of Indian origin believes Afghanistan could be quite a strong side by the 2023 World Cup. “They could do well in England, too, but they might find the conditions a bit difficult,” he said. “In the World Cup after that, however, they could be fantastic. They already have some quality players like Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb Ur Rahman, who could walk into most international sides.”

Bopara feels the APL could unearth some new stars for Aghanistan. “It has happened everywhere, be it in the IPL, PSL or the Big Bash,” he says. “So Afghanistan too will find some young superstars.”

He thinks the APL is a good opportunity for him, too. “It has come at the right time for me, as there is no cricket in England at the moment,” he said. “I decided to play here also because I wanted to play for different oppositions.”

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The last time he appeared in an England shirt was three years ago, but he is still hopeful of a recall. “I am only 33 and have just finished a good County season with the bat for Essex,” he said. “I will keep on trying.”

About India’s recent Test series in England, he said the results didn’t reflect what really happened. “India played rather well and it wasn’t a 4-1 series; it was much closer,” he said. “And I was really impressed by India’s pace bowlers. They were brilliant; the best of Indian seamers that I have seen in the 27 years that I have been following cricket. And Bhuvneshwar Kumar didn’t even play.”

(The writer is in Sharjah at the invitation of DSPORT)