SYDNEY (AP) — After nearly a month-long quarantine, Melbourne Stars and Afghanistan import Zahir Khan is going to see his first action of the Big Bash Twenty20 league on Saturday.
The 22-year-old left-arm leg-spinner will play for the Stars against the Sydney Sixers in a grand final rematch which Sydney won last season by 19 runs.
The coronavirus pandemic hit at a bad time for Afghanistan cricket and the country has not played a match in any format since March.
In that time, one-off tests against Ireland and Australia were called off, with the Australia match now scheduled for the start of next summer Down Under.
“Everyone in Afghanistan is very excited about that test,” Zahir told Australian Associated Press. “It’s hard because every player needs to play a high standard of games against big teams. Our team doesn’t have that much experience in test cricket, so we need more games in tests.”
Zahir says Afghanistan will also play tests in 2021 against Zimbabwe and Ireland.
Afghanistan’s team includes regular BBL names Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Zahir.
They have an one-day international series against Ireland next month, meaning Zahir’s time in Australia could be curtailed if selected for the Ireland series.
He also could have started playing earlier, if not for having to restart his quarantine after Mujeeb tested positive to the virus after three days in quarantine.
“It felt like a long time in there,” Zahir said. “When (Mujeeb’s) test came back positive someone called me from health and said you have to do three more days because you met with Mujeeb. So I said ‘OK, no problems. It’s very hard but the rule is the rule’.
“I just enjoyed the time with the home gym. Otherwise I was just sitting there waiting to finish.”
Zahir believes he learned a lot from bowling on Australian wickets last season, taking eight wickets and going at just 6.58 runs per over for the Brisbane Heat.
He became a key signing for coach David Hussey’s Stars after a strong Caribbean Premier League performance.
“We signed him as one of the world’s best leg-spinners,” Hussey said. “He bowls a lot of googlies and most importantly tries to take wickets all the time . . .he plays to take wickets and celebrate in style.”