Afghanistan cricketers will feature in the Indian Premier League auction for the first time ever this year.As many as five players from Afghanistan, an associate nation, will go under the hammer in Bengaluru on February 20.The 29-year-old wicketkeeper batsman Mohammad Shahzad is seen as a favourite. Last year, Shahzad won the ICC Associate/Affiliate Cricketer of the Year award, becoming the first Afghan player to win such honour. He was also the first Afghanistan player to hit an ODI century when he scored 110 against Netherlands in 2009.Speaking exclusively to India Today, Ambassador of Afghanistan to India, Shaida Mohammad Abdali, said this will be a big opportunity to boost Afghan cricket. (Ishant Sharma, Eoin Morgan in top base price bracket in IPL 2017 auction)He also expressed hope that the players would get picked by the franchises.”Cricket is cementing people to people ties. IPL is a big opportunity to boost Afghanistan cricket. Hope team owners pick players,” Abdali told India Today.Abdali mentioned that there was a huge interest for IPL in his country.”Tremendous interest in Afghanistan for IPL,” he said. (IPL 2017 to start from April 5 as scheduled, confirms Committee of Administrators)Interestingly, Afghanistan cricket shifted its base from Sharjah to Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh in 2015. The team now uses the Shaheed Vijay Singh Pathik Sports Complex in Greater Noida as its home ground.