Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000
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Afghanistan is set to join the growing ranks of countries that have a T20 competition of their own, with their cricket board (ACB) announcing the launch of the Afghanistan Premier League. Following the signing of the tournament's MoU on Thursday, its first edition is set to take place in October 2018.
"There will be a total of 23 matches between five teams," ACB chief executive Shafiq Stanikzai told ESPNcricinfo. "The league will take place in the UAE, but we haven't yet decided on which cities will play host to the league. But now we have got official approval from the Emirates Cricket Board, and we'd like to thank them for that."
Stanikzai revealed that an auction to purchase the five teams would be held in March, with a player draft to be held after that. Approximately 40 cricketers from overseas have expressed an interest in participating in the APL T20, which gives it a far heftier international presence than what Afghanistan's other T20 competition, the Shpageeza Cricket League, enjoyed last year.
"The APL T20 will be played on a broader scale, both financially and coverage wise," Stanikzai said. "Our strategic objective is to bring this league into the top three T20 leagues in the world."
The decision to schedule the league for October is likely no coincidence. It has traditionally been one of the few months without a global T20 league in what is becoming an increasingly saturated calendar. Indeed, in 2017, it was one of only two months (June being the other) in which an elite T20 league wasn't played. This year, the APL T20 would hope to avoid clashing with the Caribbean Premier League, which ended in September in 2017, and the Bangladesh Premier League, which last year began in November.
Stanikzai also confirmed that the Shpageeza Cricket League would continue to be played. "Shapageeza is a domestic T20 league, and the APL T20 is to be played on top of it. The Shpageeza Cricket League will be played this year, tentatively in June."
ACB chairman Atif Mashal was also buoyant about the new T20 competition's potential. "The Afghanistan T20 Premier league will provide a valuable opportunity for Afghan players to play alongside major names in international cricket," he said.
This is the second major T20 competition that the UAE will play host to, potentially on an annual basis. Both seasons of the Pakistan Super League have been played in the UAE, while all but three matches of the third PSL season - that begins next month - are slotted to be played in the Emirates as well.