The lucrative purchases of England’s Ben Stokes and Tymal Mills in this year’s IPL auction will be regarded as just reward and acknowledgement of both the country’s vastly improved T20 form and method.
Stokes became the most expensive foreign player in the league’s history but the combined 24.5 crores (Dhs1.3bn) spent on the England duo pales in significance to the 4.4 crores (Dh4.4m) spent on Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan and Chirag Suri.
When you factor in the glitz and glamour of the IPL and its status as the elite Twenty20 tournament in the world in terms of both riches and the quality of its product, you can begin to understand the emphasis that has been placed on origin of passports.
But, in three knocks on the hammer by Bargain Hunt’s Richard Madley, the ceiling on Associate Nation cricket was cracked, potentially shattered.
The purchases of Suri (Gujarat Lions – 10 lakh), Nabi (30 lakh) and Rashid (4 crore – both Sunrisers Hyderabad) means those three players now become the first Associate Nation cricketers after Ryan ten Doeschate to earn IPL contracts.
It is testament to the growth of the Associate game that three of six players that entered the auction were actually picked up by franchises and the most promising sign yet that they are being noticed.
Finally, these players have been rewarded for vast improvements on the pitch, their affordability proving one, but not the sole, reason for their selection.
Take Nabi and Rashid, for example. The pair have been superb recently, ending the last World T20 in India as the top two wicket-takers in the tournament, albeit playing more games than the full member nations because of qualifying.
Further evidence came in the latest Bangladesh Premier League, in which Nabi took 19 wickets in 15 matches, Rashid 13 in eight.
Add in both players’ ability with the bat and you’re looking at two of the biggest bargains in the entire auction.
It really shouldn’t come as a surprise then that they were snapped up, but it still does; even more so when you consider Suri was also snapped up by the Gujarat Lions.
The 22-year-old has not featured for the UAE since last December, being left out of their Desert T20 squad and pushed to the fringes of the squad and a UAE domestic cricket scene that is a world away from the IPL.
But here he is, the Delhi-born UAE youngster now a fully-fledged part of an IPL side that contains Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Brendon McCullum and Jason Roy.
It is by joining this list that Suri has the chance to do something no other UAE player has been able to and give cricket in this country exposure outside of rare appearances at global competitions.
Finally, the UAE has someone for young players to look up to and look forward to watching on TV, someone they can relate to and hopefully see as a cause for inspiration.
It is something that Afghanistan’s stars have already been able to do and IPL franchises will no doubt look to Rashid and Nabi as assets to both their playing squads and commercial departments.
You need look no further than the swathes of Afghanistan fans that turned out for the Desert T20 in the UAE to see the popularity of the sport, even outside of the country.
Their rise gave Afghanistan hope and in the likes of Nabi, Rashid, Mohammad Shahzad, Dawlat Zadran and captain Asghar Stanikzai (the latter trio were unsold in this auction) they have genuine stars of the game already inspiring the country’s cricket mad youth.
Afghanistan has well and truly led the way across all fronts for Associate Nations in recent years and both the UAE and Suri are now sampling a little of those delights.
Hopefully, this can be the start of something fantastic for cricket within the smaller borders of its reach, the latest battle won by Associate Nations proving they are willing and able to punch above their weight.