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Shahid Afridi renews ties with Qalandars franchise in Abu Dhabi T10 league

The Pakistani allrounder will be the icon player for the franchise

Umar Farooq
Umar Farooq
Shahid Afridi brings out his trademark starfish celebration  •  Pakistan Super League

Shahid Afridi brings out his trademark starfish celebration  •  Pakistan Super League

Shahid Afridi has renewed ties with the Qalandars as an icon player for the upcoming Abu Dhabi T10 league, which will run from January 28, 2021 to February 6 at the Zayed Cricket Stadium. He had signed a similar deal in 2019, but the PCB then refused to issue NOCs for all active as well as retired Pakistani players to feature in the league, resulting in a diplomatic crisis between Pakistan and UAE.
"Shahid Afridi is an exciting and experienced cricketer. The Qalandars family is proud to welcome him back as an icon player for this season of Abu Dhabi T10," Sameen Rana, CEO of Qalandars, said. "We look forward to welcoming him to Qalandars family and hope that his presence will take the team to new heights in the season."
Last year, Sameen Rana, the brother of Fawad Rana, the owner of the Lahore Qalandars franchise in the PSL, bought a T10 franchise and named it Qalandars as well. The majority of the Qalandars squad was Pakistani, including players who were picked up from the Lahore Qalandars player development program, with Afridi being named as the icon player as well as captain for the third edition of the T10 league.
The PCB had originally allowed Pakistan players to be drafted in the league but then unexpectedly revoked the permission. In a statement, the PCB said that the decision had been taken "to manage the players' workload, continued work on their fitness levels [and] to ensure primacy and participation of its players in its premier Quaid-e-Azam Trophy."
As a result, the Qalandars were hit the hardest and had to rejig their roster. As ESPNcricinfo had reported earlier, the issue was escalated when ECB vice-chairman Khalid Al Zarooni sent a letter ahead of the league last year to PCB chairman Ehsan Mani to say that the decision would directly hurt the UAE government's stakes in the tournament, and urged the Pakistani board to change its mind. Mani was believed to have told the ECB vice-chairman on the phone about the prime minister's role in the decision. He also advised the ECB to engage directly with Khan through a senior UAE minister to find a resolution.
The PCB and T10 league have had a troubled history since the latter came into being in 2017. Before the 2018 season, the PCB had held back the NOCs till the last minute after Mani had raised concerns over the league's ownership patterns and sponsorship. The controversy started after the league's president Salman Iqbal - also a major investor in the tournament - stepped down citing lack of "transparency" and "proper systems and monitoring."
The forthcoming Abu Dhabi T10 league will feature eight teams and they will pick their players through a draft on December 23. The league clashes with Pakistan's home series against South Africa, which is scheduled to be played from January 26 to February 14. However, it is understood that the players who are not in contention for that series will be allowed to take part in the league.

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent