LAHORE: Pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi has signed with Desert Vipers for the second season of the UAE’s ILT20, and will become the first Pakistan player to play in the league when it takes place in January next year. He has joined on a three-year contract. “I am excited to join the Desert Vipers. I know there are many Pakistan cricket fans in the UAE and I hope they will support our team in the upcoming ILT20,” Afridi said in a statement. With the season scheduled to begin on January 13, Afridi will join the group after returning from Australia after the New Year’s Test in Sydney. Last year, Vipers had signed Azam Khan, which would have made him the first Pakistan player in the ILT20, but the PCB eventually did not grant him the no-objection certificate to play in the league. The PCB, under current chairman Zaka Ashraf, has softened its stance on allowing players to participate in various T20 leagues, after the players had expressed displeasure last year on the restrictive terms imposed under the administration at the time, led by Ramiz Raja. The PCB administration under Najam Sethi, Ashraf’s predecessor, was also understood to have been negotiating with ILT20 about making Pakistan players available. “Shaheen is a player of world-class calibre who has had a significant impact not only for Pakistan but for every team he’s played for in recent times,” Vipers director of cricket Tom Moody said on their new signing. “He offers a huge amount as an impact pace bowler that has destroyed many, many top-orders and he also boasts terrific leadership skills that will add a huge amount of value to the Desert Vipers moving forward.” Afridi will join a bowling attack that already has Wanindu Hasaranga, Matheesha Pathirana, Tom Curran and Sheldon Cottrell among others. Vipers retained many of their players after finishing runners-up in the inaugural season. The list includes captain Colin Munro and opener Alex Hales, who finished as the highest run-scorer of the tournament.