Afghanistan left-arm wristspinner Zahir Khan and West Indies bowling allrounder Keemo Paul are set to play in the upcoming BBL after signing with the Melbourne Stars and the Hobart Hurricanes respectively, while a Covid-19 outbreak in South Australia has affected the Adelaide Strikers’ preparation.
Zahir had played in last season’s BBL for the Brisbane Heat but is set to join the Stars as their third overseas signing after they lost Haris Rauf to international duty.
The Stars signed Zahir in the hope he could play the entire season, but the availability of Afghanistan’s players for the BBL – including Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi, and Mujeeb Ur Rahman – has been thrown into doubt with the scheduling of Afghanistan’s three-match ODI series against Ireland in the UAE in January.
The Stars’ coach David Hussey said Zahir would complement their spin stocks despite already having a left-arm wristspinner in Clint Hinchliffe.
“We’re looking forward to having Zahir on board for this season,” Hussey said. “His left arm wristspin will give us a variety of options. Together with Adam Zampa, Tom O’Connell, Clint Hinchliffe and the support of our skipper Glenn Maxwell, we’re pleased with the group of spinners we’ll have available over the course of the season.”
Paul won’t have the same availability issues as Zahir, given he is already in New Zealand and like Nicholas Pooran, will not have to quarantine on arrival in Australia due to a travel arrangement between the two countries.
Paul has been signed by the Hurricanes on the urging of former Hurricanes and Australia captain Ricky Ponting, who has coached Paul for the last two seasons at the Delhi Capitals in the IPL. Paul did not play a game in the recent IPL as the Capitals reached the final, but he did meet with the Hurricanes’ coach Adam Griffith while in the UAE, as Griffith was working as the bowling coach of the Royal Challengers Bangalore.
“I am really excited to be joining Hobart for the upcoming BBL, and I am very grateful for the opportunity,” Paul said.
“I have always been a big BBL fan and an avid watcher of the tournament, and I cannot wait to join up with the Hurricanes group. I have spoken to Ricky here at the IPL about Hobart and Tasmania, and he has spoken really positively about the team and the competition. I also caught up with Griff after our [IPL] game recently, and it was great to hear more about the very exciting squad this year.”
Griffith was excited about Paul’s inclusion into the squad as the third overseas signing, alongside Dawid Malan and Will Jacks. Colin Ingram is locked in as Malan’s early-season replacement while the Englishman plays the T20I series in South Africa, which ends on December 2. Malan will also need to complete 14 days of quarantine after arriving in Australia.
“Keemo is another exciting young player in the early stages of his international career,” Griffith said. “A bowling allrounder with very good skills, Keemo uses different types of slower balls and loves bowling at the death. He’s also a hard-hitting batsman that can clear the fence, adding more power to our lower-middle order to finish off an innings.”
The BBL remains on track to begin on December 10 with games being played in hubs in Tasmania, ACT and Queensland prior to Christmas.
There are games scheduled to be played in Adelaide between Christmas and new year too. However, a recent Covid-19 outbreak in Adelaide’s northern suburbs has created a number of headaches for Cricket Australia with the Strikers being forced to leave South Australia at short notice on Tuesday. Those who played in the last round of the Sheffield Shield in Adelaide also remain in quarantine in other states.
There has been no change to the BBL schedule yet and no confirmation of any of the venues for the games in January in February. However, curators at the Marvel Stadium and the MCG in Melbourne have been told to prepare their drop-in pitches for BBL matches in January.
The MCG held a small-scale practice run for hosting socially distanced spectators on Tuesday ahead of the upcoming Boxing Day Test against India and the BBL fixtures being held there in December and January. (ESPNCricinfo)