AFGHANISTAN is a war zone, with bomb blasts the order of the day, but for four Zimbabwe cricketers the Asian country may just turn out to be a gold mine. Sports Reporter
Sikandar Raza, Sean Williams, Hamilton Masakadza and Solomon Mire are set to do business in the Afghanistan T20 league next month – and make some tidy money too. With some of the world’s leading cricketers not keen on “risking it” in Afghanistan, the four will feature in this year’s edition of the competition alongside other internationals from the West Indies, and Bangladesh.
Speaking to The Sunday Mail Sport in a week during which a vehicle bomb killed 49 and injured 300 in Kabul, all-rounder Williams – who was picked for around US$10 000 by the Speenghar Tigers – said he had been assured of his safety. “The security question is obviously always at the back of your mind, but their cricket board has told me that I will be fine. “We will see how things are when we are closer to the time we are expected to fly out. “I know there was a bomb that went off in Kabul recently but that has not forced me into making a decision yet,” said Williams.
Afghanistan Cricket Board chief executive Shafiq Stanikzai insists that players will be safe. “All matches will be held in Kabul, between July 18 and July 28. Security will be beefed up weeks before the tournament begins. “I can assure you that there is no concern over security in Kabul. Players will be given full protection,” Stanikzai was quoted saying by Cricinfo last week.
Raza made his Afghanistan T20 debut last year and says he will be a lot more relaxed when he makes the trip next month. “I will be honest I had my doubts when I was first picked but after being there I realized how Afghanistan is a cricket-loving nation,” he said. “The love I got from the people was amazing, a stadium filled with 30 000 people is the dream setting to play cricket in. I am a lot more relaxed this year than I was last year.”
Raza was bought for US$10 000 by the Mis Ainak Knights. Masakadza, Zimbabwe’s most expensive player after he was bagged for around US$20 000 by AMO Sharks, is looking forward to a good outing. “There are obviously some slight security concerns, but they have been allayed by the security plans we have been shown and I have also been fortunate enough to meet a Zimbabwean currently working there who has reassured me about spending time in Afghanistan,” said Masakadza.
Mire is yet to make his international T20 debut and the 27-year-old all-rounder believes cracking it in Afghanistan will open more lucrative doors for him. “I think it’s an exciting venture. Hopefully it goes well and builds into something bigger going forward. I have only played 15 ODIs, am yet to play a T20 international so it can be said that I am still fresh,” said the Kabul Eagles US$10 000 signing.