In sync with Afghanistan's rapidly rising stature in world cricket, the Shpageeza Cricket League has managed to hog the limelight in recent times. Even though the T20 tournament has taken place on four prior occasions, the 2017 edition has attracted significant attention in the global arena owing to the increased presence of overseas players and coaches.
The franchise-based competition will run from September 11-21 and all matches will be played at Kabul International Cricket Stadium. The six participating teams are Band-e-Amir Dragons, Boost Defenders, AMO Sharks, Mis Ainak Knights, Speenghar Tigers and Kabul Eagles.
The group stage consists of 15 games which will begin at 0915 and 1400 local time. The play-offs are based on the Indian Premier League (IPL) model. Even as the two best-placed teams in the initial phase battle it out for a spot in the final, the third and fourth-placed sides will contest an eliminator. Subsequently, the loser of the first qualifier and winner of the eliminator square off against each other in the second qualifier in order to seal the remaining spot in the title clash. All matches will be broadcast live in Afghanistan on 1TV.
Here's the complete schedule of the tournament.
September 11 - Kabul Eagles vs Boost Defenders and Amo Sharks vs Speenghar Tigers
September 12 - Band-e-Amir Dragons vs Mis Ainak Knights and Boost Defenders vs Speenghar Tigers
September 13 - Amo Sharks vs Kabul Eagles and Boost Defenders vs Mis Ainak Knights
September 14 - Band-e-Amir Dragons vs Speenghar Tigers and Amo Sharks vs Mis Ainak Knights
September 15 - Band-e-Amir Dragons vs Boost Defenders and Speenghar Tigers vs Kabul Eagles
September 16 - Kabul Eagles vs Mis Ainak Knights and Boost Defenders vs Amo Sharks
September 17 - Mis Ainak Knights vs Speenghar Tigers and Band-e-Amir Dragons vs Amo Sharks
September 18 - Kabul Eagles vs Band-e-Amir Dragons
September 20 - First Qualifier
September 20 - Eliminator
September 21 - Second Qualifier
September 22 - Final
All six teams will get to avail the services of seasoned overseas coaches even as players from Zimbabwe, South Africa, West Indies, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Oman have been picked up by the franchises to feature alongside the leading names of Afghanistan cricket.
While the likes of Herschelle Gibbs and Adam Hollioake have signed up as coaches, international stars such as Denesh Ramdin, Abdul Razzaq, Sikandar Raza Butt, Hamilton Masakadza, Solomon Mire, Morne van Wyk, Cameron Delport will attract plenty of eyeballs.
It is pertinent to note that the tournament was initially supposed to run from July 18 to 28. However, the May 31 bomb blast near the German Embassy in Kabul resulted in the event getting postponed to September.
When the Afghanistan Cricket Board cancelled the 2-match T20 series between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) retaliated by pulling out all of its players from the Shpageeza Cricket League. Upon making himself available for the tournament, former skipper Shahid Afridi pulled out citing an 'urgent family issue'.
Here are the previous winners of the Shpageeza Cricket League.
2013 - Speenghar Tigers
2014 - Mis Ainak Knights
2015 - Speenghar Tigers
2016 - Kabul Eagles