The excitement in the tone is unmistakable. You can hear the voices of his teammates in the background as you connect to Mohammad Nabi in Zimbabwe. For the Indian Premier League team owners, Monday’s auction is about making a few buys here and there, to fix specific areas. However, if Nabi is to be believed, the cricket enthusiasts in Afghanistan will be glued to all available sources of information - TV sets, mobile phones and computers – to follow the action happening in Bengaluru.
“You cannot believe the interest in IPL in Afghanistan. Royal Challengers Bangalore, Dhoni’s original team Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders are very popular,” Nabi told HT.
“If even one of our players gets picked on Monday, it will be a big boost for the game in Afghanistan. Some of us are playing in other leagues but to be in IPL means we can play in the best league,” said Nabi, who has been the backbone of the Afghan side.
He was Man of the Match in the final and the player of the tournament in the recently-concluded Desert T20 Challenge for Associate nations. The off-spinner claimed four for 10 in the final against Ireland, in January, and produced strong performances in the Bangladesh Premier League as well.
“Our cricket board has been trying to convince the BCCI for the last two years to have some of our players in the IPL auction. Finally we have been given the chance this time,” said Nabi.
When told that the IPL teams consider players for their ability to perform in Indian conditions, Nabi reminded that their home ground now is in Noida. He also touched upon the cordial relations that the two governments share.
The other Afghans in the auction are keeper-batsman Mohammad Shahzad, batsman Asghar Stanikzhai, pacer Dawlat Zadran and leg-spinner Rashid Khan.
Nabi’s form and overall record is impressive but he talked highly about his four teammates’ T20 abilities as well. Shahzad’s pyrotechnics had grabbed eyeballs during the last edition of World T20 in India, the highlight being his assault (19-ball 44) against the South African pace attack at the Wankhede while chasing a total of 209.
Nabi warned against going by the looks of the rotund keeper-batsman. “The whole world knows Shahzad as an attacking batsman. Rashid is our most talented player, his googly is difficult to pick and it is on target. He was very successful at the 2016 World T20,” he said.
“People back home followed the Bangladesh League so closely because our players were playing. Imagine the craze for IPL if Nabi and all are playing,” said Nabi’s teammate and opening batsman Noor Ali Zadran.
“All of Afghanistan is waiting. Koi na koi aa jaye (someone should be picked),” hoped Nabi.
Even though the Afghanistan players will be tired from their one-day game and it will be early morning in Africa when the auction starts, you can bet that most of them will be up and following their fortune’s wheel. “We have downloaded Indian apps and will be following it on the social media,” said Zadran.