Raza was drafted in as Edmonton Royals’ 11th pick alongside UAE international team-mate Shaiman Anwar. Both will be sharing the same dressing room as ex-Pakistan skipper Afridi and blistering T20 batsman Lynn in the inaugural competition which begins June 28.
For Raza, it will be his first franchise-based T20 tournament and the spinner insists it’s a great feeling that his talents have been recognised after taking 25 wickets in 37 T20 matches for the UAE.
“Finally being picked in the inaugural edition is a very good feeling and I’m hoping to do well there,” said the 29-year-old.
“To be honest, it came out as a surprise and got the news that Associate players would be picked. We were very hopeful that some of us UAE players would be getting picked. There’s bit of surprise and expectation so you back yourself to go out there and do well.”
Afridi and Lynn are among the high-profile names in Edmonton Royals’ squad, which also features ex-New Zealand batsman Luke Ronchi.
While Raza is looking forward to rubbing shoulders with the elite stars, he says it’s an honour to count Afridi as one of his team-mates.
“Chris Lynn is a very big name in T20 cricket and Shahid Afridi comes with the whole stardom thing. He really enjoys playing in front of big crowds and he’s one guy who will pull the crowd together and that will be something I will be looking forward to.
“He is a very attacking cricketer and would never let the game go. His aggressiveness was there and still to date, is playing cricket his own way. He has been around for two decades and has a lot of experience.
“There are so many T20 games, just being in the same dressing room, it will be a massive boost for everyone. Even though it’s franchise cricket, we will be carrying the UAE flag high and it will be exciting for everyone.”
Mustafa will line up alongside Smith for Toronto Nationals in the inaugural competition, which begins on June 28, in what will be the batsman’s first appearance since the ball-tampering scandal.
Smith, 29, was handed a 12-month ban along with Australia vice-captain David Warner, who will also feature in Canada, for their role in the incident carried out by Cameron Bancroft in the third Test against South Africa in March.
Mustafa insists he never lost respect for a player he regards highly and is looking forward to sharing the same dressing room as the 2015 World Cup winner.
“He’s one of the best players I have ever seen in my life,” the all-rounder said. “He’s one of the best Test players and is a World Cup winner and to be playing alongside him is a very good opportunity for me. I’m very happy to be calling him a team-mate. I’ve played against him at the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and have a lot of respect for him.”
Smith and Warner will be eligible to play for Australia in March following their suspensions, which apply to international and state cricket. Bancroft, who received a lighter ban, will be available for selection in early 2019.
Mustafa admits the punishments handed out were harsh but believes their international careers are not over.
“I think Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft should come back and play international cricket,” he said. “It was a very big ban which I think is a little bit unfair. I think they should have been banned for one or two Tests but not nine or 12 months.
“If people continue to criticise it’s not a good thing. There have been players that have been punished before for ball-tampering but not for this long.”
Two-time World Cup-winning skipper Darren Sammy and Keiron Pollard are among the other stars in Toronto’s squad, which also features UAE international team-mate Mohammad Naveed.
It will be the most high-profile franchise-based T20 tournament that Mustafa will play in after missing out in the PSL draft previously.
He had played in Nepal and the T10 League before but believes the Canada event will be great learning curve.
“It’s a great achievement to play alongside SSmith, Sammy and other international stars,” he said. “It will be a great opportunity to learn from them and we will learn a lot of things of that which will help us a lot.
“Smith and Sammy will give ideas and it will be great to learn how to deal with the pressure, how they build the innings and these are new things that I can apply to my game.”
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