South Africa allrounder Chris Morris is set for his CPL debut after being unveiled as a first-round pick by the Barbados Tridents in the draft that was held on Sunday, ahead of the 2021 season, which will run from August 28 to September 19.
The other first-round picks of the franchises - Andre Russell (Jamaica Tallawahs), Faf du Plessis (St Lucia Zouks), Kieron Pollard (Trinbago Knight Riders), Dwayne Bravo (St Kitts & Nevis Patriots) and Nicholas Pooran (Guyana Amazon Warriors) - were all made public before Friday's draft.
Wristspinners among hot picks
Wristspinners were in particular demand with the entire 2021 season set to be played in St Kitts & Nevis. Nepal legspinner Sandeep Lamichhane, who had turned out for the Tallawahs last season, was signed by the Knight Riders, the defending champions, as a like-for-like swap for Fawad Ahmed.
However, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Lamichhane's former Tallawahs team-mate, and Rashid Khan, who has represented the Tridents and the Amazon Warriors in the past, will not be part of CPL 2021, and will instead be on international duty for Afghanistan.
With Rashid, Mujeeb, and Mohammad Nabi unavailable, the franchises turned to second rung of Afghanistan players. Left-arm wristspinner Waqar Salamkheil and legspinner Qais Ahmad were picked by the Amazon Warriors and the Tallawahs respectively.
Opening batter Ibrahim Zadran, who is more known for his long-format credentials, also got a gig with the Tallawahs. Legspinner Shafiqullah Ghafari, who was the second-highest wicket-taker in the 2020 Under-19 World Cup, with 16 strikes at an average of 7.00 and an economy rate of 2.45, will help fill the Rashid-sized void at the Tridents.
Sri Lanka legspin-bowling allrounder Wanindu Hasaranga, who had set the inaugural LPL alight in December, was picked by the Patriots. He will team up with Jon-Russ Jaggesar, who has the carrom ball among his variations. Seam-bowling allrounder Thisara Perera, who recently retired from international cricket, found a place on the Tridents' roster. With the original slower-ball specialist Bravo moving to the Patriots, the Knight Riders snapped up the Sri Lanka left-armer Isuru Udana, who also has an assortment of cutters in his repertoire.
Pakistanis attract interest
As many as seven Pakistani players will be action this season, including Haider Ali, Usman Qadir, Mohammad Amir, and Azam Khan, who have never featured in the CPL before. Azam, the son of the former Pakistan keeper Moin, has a strike rate of 157.41 in T20 cricket and was part of the Galle Gladiators side that finished runners-up in the LPL last December.
Haider went to the Tallawahs, Qadir and Wahab Riaz to the Zouks, and Amir and Azam to the Tridents.
Shoaib Malik, who was Player of the Match in that LPL final, will reunite with Mohammad Hafeez at the Amazon Warriors. Malik and Hafeez will be potential captaincy options for the Warriors who have jettisoned Chris Green.
West Indies internationals watch
Seam-bowling allrounder Keemo Paul, who recently missed a West Indies central contract and retention at the Amazon Warriors, was a second-round pick for the Zouks. Paul will link up with Alzarri Joseph, his former Under-19 World Cup team-mate.
Tearaway Oshane Thomas, who had been released by the Tallawahs, was drafted as a seventh-round pick by the Tridents. Jason Mohammed, who had captained West Indies' depleted ODI squad on their Bangladesh tour earlier this year, won a deal with the Tallawahs.
Ravi Rampaul, who has been playing county cricket for a number of years as a Kolpak player, is set to return to the CPL after four years, having been picked up by the Knight Riders. The 36-year-old fast bowler's last T20 game was for Derbyshire in the Vitality Blast in 2019.
Tridents sign Smit Patel
Smit Patel, the former India Under-19 wicketkeeper-batter, who has now reportedly moved to the USA, filled up the Tridents' 17th slot as a Major League Cricket pick. Patel, 28, has played 55 first-class matches and had also participated in the most recent 50-over and 20-over domestic competitions in India for Baroda. According to the draft regulations, a franchise can pick an MLC player, a West Indies local player, or not pick anyone as their 17th pick. The Amazon Warriors were the only franchise that opted against selecting a player in the 17th round.
With the IPL eyeing a September-October window in the UAE to resume the tournament, it could potentially clash with the CPL. Given West Indies players are in high demand at the IPL, this might have a significant impact on the tournament. The big question for the CPL is how it can tweak its schedule so that the tournament concludes well in time for the IPL contingent to travel directly the UAE on a charter plane and avoid missing any games.