The six Afghanistan players taking part in this year’s Caribbean Premier League (CPL) might have to fly back home just before the playoff stages of the tournament to be a part of their own domestic T20 League, the Shpageeza Cricket League.
The Shpageeza Cricket League is slated to take place at Kabul between September 6 to 16. It almost overlaps with the playoff stages of the CPL, whose final is scheduled on September 10. The Shpageeza Cricket League will feature 19 matches including four play-offs and will be played at the Kabul International Stadium.
The six Afghan Cricketers are all part of Afghanistan’s domestic T20 League. Rashid represents the Band-e-Amir Dragons in the Shpageeza League, while Nabi captains the Mis-e-Ainak Knights, Mujeeb and Naveen play for the Kabul Eagles, and Zadran and Zahir the Speenghar Tigers.
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According to ESPNCricinfo, the Afghanistan Cricket Board said that it was committed to have the Afghanistan players in the CPL available in time for the Shpageeza Cricket League, barring logistical issues or government restrictions. Nazeem Jaar Abdulrahimzai, the acting chief executive officer of the ACB, said the plan was to fly the Afghanistan players in the CPL to Kabul by September 5. However, the ACB has taken into account the fact that Trinidad has kept its borders closed and the players could miss the first few matches of the Shpageeza League.
Abdulrahimzai told ESPNcricinfo, “We have sent an email to Cricket West Indies. We will have players from CPL on September 5. They are aware about that. They are just waiting for the flight details so they will prepare for the players to fly out.”
Neither CWI nor the CPL or the franchises have made any comment yet. It is understood that once it had received the No Objection Certificates that had been granted by various boards, the CWI had informed them that players would only be able to exit the CPL’s biosecure bubble after getting permission from the Trinidad government to board a charter flight to move to a different Caribbean island or fly out to other destinations.
At the time the ACB granted them NOCs to take part in the CPL, it is understood the Afghanistan players were allowed to be available to their CPL teams between August 1 and September 10. The ACB is not revoking those NOCs, but is trying to coordinate with CWI to find a solution. The franchises, on their part, have not yet been informed of the Afghanistan players’ plans. It is understood they will release the Afghanistan players subject to nods from the CPL and CWI.
It is understood that CWI informed the ACB that the only way the Afghanistan players could exit the CPL’s biosecure bubble safely with permission from the Trinidad government was if a charter plane landed to pick them up.
According to Abdulrahimzai, the ACB has chalked out two routes for the players to be flown to Kabul. He said, “We have arranged a chartered plane. It will pick them (players) from Trinidad. The first choice is they will fly to Barbados as they already have the ticket from there (to come back). From Barbados to London and then via UAE to Kabul. If that is not possible we are working on the second option as well: pick them from Trinidad, fly to London and then to Kabul.”
Currently, Afghanistan does not have any mandatory quarantine norms, which means their players can move seamlessly out of the CPL bubble and into the Shpageeza League. The ACB has said it will follow the guidelines imposed by the Afghanistan Ministry of Public Health and the World Health Organisation during the course of the tournament. The ACB also said that the decision to allow spectators at the stadium is subject to the approval of relevant health authorities and the Government Emergency Committee for the prevention of COVID-19.
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Abdulrahimzai said the ACB was also liaising with the government authorities to check if crowds could be allowed at the Shpageeza League, which in the past has attracted full houses.
The BCCI would also require clarity on the availability of the Afghanistan players. The reason behind that is Rashid, Nabi and Mujeeb are also due to take part in the IPL, which begins in the UAE on September 19. Though the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) wants its players’ full availability, it is understood that in case they take part in the Shpageeza League, the IPL trio will be allowed to travel to the UAE in time to play their respective franchises’ opening matches.
Abdulrahimzai said the three IPL-bound Afghanistan players would be allowed to leave the Shpageeza League early so they could undergo the mandatory six-day quarantine which is part of a rigorous testing process in place for the IPL, but the ACB was yet to take a final decision. Rashid and Nabi represent Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL while Mujeeb plays for Kings XI Punjab.
“Those players who are in the IPL we might release them few days earlier so they can go be in the UAE for the mandatory quarantine,” Abdulrahimzai said.