Not many South Africans would have heard of Waqar Salamkheil, the youngest new recruit for the second season of the Mzansi Super League. Indeed, Tshwane Spartans assistant coach Mandla Mashimbyi admitted that Salamkheil "is a mystery to us as well" after the 17-year-old left-arm wristspinner was signed up for R180 000 (US$12,000) at the MSL draft on Tuesday.
He has played just 12 first-class matches, one of which was a Test match - against Ireland, earlier this year. Salamkheil picked up four wickets in the match as Afghanistan won by seven wickets. Besides that, he has played in eight T20 matches, seven of which were in the Afghanistan Premier League. Salamkheil played seven games for Kandahar Knights, claiming ten wickets, and a video featuring a few dismissals of those got the Spartans' team management excited.
"We saw a couple of videos, and we really liked what we saw," Mashimbyi said. "He is similar to [Tabraiz] Shamsi. He is going to bamboozle a lot of guys. Hopefully, he can do his job properly. It's nice to have that mystery factor. We don't know what he will bring, but no one else knows either."
Head coach Mark Boucher called Salamkheil's signing a "brave" decision, and one that was part of a broader strategy to cover all bases after Spartans' poor showing in the inaugural MSL.
While Salamkheil has no prior knowledge of South African conditions, many of his team-mates will know exactly what to expect from the SuperSport Park pitch. Nine members of the squad, including Morne Morkel and Roelof van der Merwe, are either still playing their cricket in local South African teams or have been part of teams that have been based in Tshwane.
"Our squad this time has got cover for everything," Boucher said. "It's massive to have guys who've played there before. They are comfortable in the surroundings, have good memories and have won a lot of trophies. That will play to our advantage."
Boucher added that the Spartans would remain on the lookout for a new captain, with AB de Villiers vacating that role this season. "AB won't be captain, we've discussed that. He's a fantastic player but he must go out there and play and perform like he's been performing in the last while.
"We have a few leadership options, we'll talk to them and see how they feel. I don't think AB needs that burden, he's in that stage of his life where he must enjoy his cricket and that's probably when he plays his best."