Paul signed by Hobart Hurricanes on Ponting’s recommendation

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Exciting young West Indies all-rounder Keemo Paul has signed on for his first stint in the KFC BBL, joining the Hobart Hurricanes at the urging of former Australia skipper and Tasmanian legend, Ricky Ponting.

And in a further international move, Afghanistan spinner Zahir Khan has switched clubs to link up with the Melbourne Stars having previously played for the Brisbane Heat.

However, Zahir’s BBL participation and that of the league’s other Afghan stars may be limited after it was announced that the national side would play three ODIs against Ireland in January.

Rashid Khan (Adelaide Strikers), Mujeeb Ur Rahman (Brisbane Heat) and Mohammad Nabi (Melbourne Renegades) have all signed to play the entire BBL season, while Zahir – who has played just three matches for his country – may also earn a call-up, although the Stars expect him to be available for the whole tournament.

The matches against Ireland in the UAE are scheduled for between January 18-23 and given Australia’s tight border restrictions that require all international visitors to quarantine for two weeks, it’ll be impossible for the Afghan players to return to Australia after the Ireland series and take part in the latter stages of the BBL, which finishes on February 6.

Paul joins Dawid Malan, the world’s top-ranked T20 batter, as Hobart’s key international players for BBL|10 that have been announced so far, with another big-name import set to be named tomorrow.

South African Colin Ingram and young English batter Will Jacks will also play for the Hurricanes this season as replacement players.

A handy lower-order batsman with the ability to clear the rope, Paul’s real strength is with the ball, where he will complement Hobart’s home-grown firebrands Riley Meredith and Nathan Ellis.

He was part of Ponting’s Delhi Capitals squad at the recent IPL, although he didn’t play a match, while he’s also previously played in the Pakistan Super League.

“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,” Paul said.

“I also caught up with Griff (coach Adam Griffith) after our game recently, and it was great to hear more about the very exciting squad this year.”

A tall 22-year-old who hails from a tiny village of about 100 people in Guyana that still doesn’t have connected electricity, Paul will link up with the Hurricanes after the West Indies’ tour of New Zealand.

Paul is part of the West Indies Test and T20 squads, with the international campaign to run until December 15, meaning he will be unavailable for the Canes’ first three matches, including the BBL|10 opening night on December 10.

He should be available for their December 19 game against the Melbourne Renegades in Hobart.

Paul claimed nine wickets with the Guyana Amazon Warriors in this year’s Caribbean Premier League – including a match haul of 4-19 – which was played entirely in Trinidad on pitches that were not in favour of fast bowlers, but emerged as one of the seamers to enhance his reputation.

He first came into international cricket’s spotlight in controversial circumstances in February 2016 with a ‘Mankad’ run out that split opinions.

At the Under-19 World Cup, with opponents Zimbabwe needing three runs to win and just one wicket in hand, Paul removed the bails before beginning his delivery stride to run out the non-striker and seal the West Indies’ passage through to the tournament’s quarter-finals.

Now 22, Paul has developed into an outstanding cricketer, having represented the West Indies in all three formats, although he will be looking to prove himself at Test cricket on the New Zealand tour.

Zahir, a left-arm wrist-spinner, played the first eight games of BBL|09 for the Heat last summer, taking eight wickets at an economy rate of just 6.59.

He became a viral sensation because of his quirky dance moves celebrating wickets and will be an important cog in the Stars’ arsenal with Nepalese leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane not expected to return. (cricket.com.au)

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