On a February afternoon, Rashid Khan and Mohammed Nabi looked confused. The two cricketers from Afghanistan were just picked for the Indian Premier League (IPL) for huge money. As Sportstar spoke to them in Harare, both Nabi and Rashid had a common reaction, “we have never seen so much money…”
Perhaps, they were right. Despite cricket being the most popular sport in the war-ravaged Afghanistan, the players had not heard of such money. So, when the IPL offer came their way, both Nabi and Rashid were busy calculating the amount of money they would bring back home.
But within three months, things seem to have changed entirely.
With the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) launching the Shpageeza Cricket League in July - the country’s first franchise-based cricket league - Afghan players are the biggest benefiters. On Thursday, as the players from across the globe went under hammer, the franchises splurged big money to rope in the players of their choice.
As Sportstarfirst reported about the event last week , the Paragon Group, a logistics and supply services company, broke records by buying Band-e-Amir, the side led by Rashid Khan, for a whopping USD 1,50,000.
That was not all. Afghanistan’s all-rounder Gulbadin Naib was the most expensive buy in the auction, with Bost Defenders spending USD 108,460 on him. He was closely followed by Pakistani pace duo of Sohail Tanvir (Band-e-Amir) and Rumman Raees (Bost) - both of whom were roped in for USD 105,519.
Bangladesh’s Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Sabbir Rahman,Pakistan’s Umar Akmal, Kamran Akmal, Rumman Raees, Sohail Khan, Mohammad Nawaz and Mohammad Rizwan were the other notable buys. The West Indies’ Rayad Emrit, Zimbabwe’s Sikandar Raza, Solomon Mire, Sean Williams, Hamilton Masakadza too fetched big money.
After the auctions, held at a Kabul hotel, the franchises will now be holding meetings with the various cricket boards over the security of players. “The auction saw some of the big names going under the hammer. We have made it a point to provide highest security to the cricketers,” ACB CEO Shafiq Stanikzai told Sportstar from Kabul. The ten-day tournament, which will be held at the National Stadium in Kabul from July 18-28, will also see some of the international coaches joining the franchises. “We are taking every initiative to make the event a grand success,” Stanikzai said, adding that this is a prelude to the Afghanistan Premier League, scheduled to be held next year.
The Shpageeza League was held last year as well, in which seven foreign players – Kamran Akmal, Nasir Jamshed, Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Sami, Salman Butt and Khalid Latif from Afghanistan and Zimbabwe’s Raza – had participated. Even the players had showed satisfaction over the security measures. “I played at the event last year and have good memories,” Butt had told Sportstar last week.
Now, with the Afghan cricketers touring the West Indies for the first time, cricket looks quite buzzing at home as well. With fame and money coming their way, the players have one tournament to thank - the Indian Premier League. After all, that’s where it all started!
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