Pakistan allrounders Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzaq have signed to play for the Lions franchise in the domestic twenty-over competition in 2012. Both Afridi and Razzaq said they had received interest from more than one South African franchise but chose the Johannesburg-based team.
"My manager received several offers to play in South Africa," Razzaq said. "We made a decision on the Lions due to the fact that I have many friends in Johannesburg and have always enjoyed my time there." Razzaq plays for the Lahore Lions in Pakistan and has a proud domestic Twenty20 record across continents, with 1815 runs at a strike-rate of 142 and 102 wickets at an average of 20.73.
Afridi had played a vital role in Pakistan winning the World Twenty20 title in England in 2009. He retired from international cricket earlier this year but expressed interest in continuing his career and, with Razzaq, signed for the Melbourne Rebels in Australia's Big Bash League. "I am looking forward to my time in South Africa and helping the Lions qualify for next year's Champions league," Afridi said.
The Lions were equally thrilled to have secured the pair as they look to challenge for a domestic title. "I have no doubt that they are a perfect fit for the Lions' style of play - plus they definitely match our team chemistry," Dave Nosworthy, Lions coach said. Chief executive Cassim Docrat said their inclusion was an "investment" and he hoped it will bring long-lasting benefits. "Adding these players to the team will also benefit the exciting mix of youngsters that our squad is boasting this season."
Lions are a rebuilding franchise, after many seasons of underperformance, but they feel this is their season to excel, especially in shorter formats of the game. The only trophy Lions have won is the domestic twenty-over title in the 2006-07 season. They finished as runners-up in last season's tournament and participated in the Champions League at home, but did not qualify for the knockout stages.
Although South African franchises seldom recruited international players for this competition, that trend has changed this season. Dolphins announced the signing of Australian fast bowler Shaun Tait and West Indies batsman Chris Gayle. The competition is scheduled to start on February 15, with Lions' first match on February 17.