UAE eye entry into T20 cricket league


UAE T20 league launched Image: Chris Whiteoak & The National

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) which launched the unique T10 cricket format in 2017, is now all set to foray into the bigger franchise-based T20 cricket league a la the Indian Premier League (IPL) T20 cricket league. sources stated that the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB), the governing body for the game in UAE, announced that the league “will be held soon”, with dates being considered in December 2021 and January 2022.

The T10 League is a 10-over format cricket league in the UAE launched and owned by the T Ten Sports Management, and the league is approved by the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB). In the T20 league, a team gets to bowl 20 overs each, one over being six balls for both the formats.

United Arab Emirates Cricket Board is the official governing body of the sport of cricket in United Arab Emirates. United Arab Emirates Cricket Board is United Arab Emirates’s representative at the International Cricket Council (ICC) and is an Associate Member and has been a Member of that body since 1990.

The ECB in a statement sent out recently stated that, “Exclusive T20 league has been sanctioned by the Minister for Tolerance and Coexistence and ECB Chairman Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan to Dubai Sports City.”

An avid cricket buff, Sheikh Nahyan played a big role in bringing and hosting the 2020 edition of IPL in the UAE.

“We are delighted with the launch of our own T20 League, one we believe will enhance the growth and popularity of cricket being played in the UAE,” Dr. Tayeb Kamali, an ECB member, said.

The ECB said that the UAE’s league will follow the same blueprint of successful franchise leagues around the world like the IPL, Pakistan Super League (PSL), Australian Big Bash (BBL), Caribbean Premier League (CPL), and many others.

ECB sources further said that modalities of the league were still being worked out with plans for six franchises initially and finalization of the stakeholders within a month.

“We will complete the process of ownership within a month,” confirmed an ECB official.

It is expected that similar to other T20 franchise team owners, top international cricketers, big businessmen and Bollywood stars will be in the running to own the six new franchise teams and bargain for the best players in the business. sources further stated that the ECB announcement has come on the heels of the recent conclusion of the Abu Dhabi T10 during which several UAE-based players thrived alongside stars of the global game.

The ECB hopes that the T20 league will give Emirates players a similar platform that it gave domestic cricketer Muhammed Waseem of the Northern Warriors team in the Abu Dhabi T10 tourney. Waseem had ripped off half a century in only 12 balls and proved that he was among the best.

“We also envisage UAE-based players will continue to flourish through such opportunities as they continue to make their mark on the international stage,” Kamali commented.

The T20 competition had been mooted in the Emirates in 2018 with several of the world’s top-notch cricketers, such as Eoin Morgan (Irish-born cricketer who captains the England cricket team in limited overs cricket), AB de Villiers (South African cricketer) and Andre Russell (Jamaican cricketer), being recruited to play in a competition that was to be known as the UAE T20x in December of 2018.

The whole plan was dropped a month before it was due to start, when only two of five planned franchises were purchased.

The next proposal by ECB to launch a T20 tourney in 2020 was derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Board faces the challenge of finding a window to play the competition in the international cricket calendar, chock-a-block with other franchise cricket tournaments during the winter season.

The T10 which is usually played in November and December was played from the end of January to the start of February this year (January 28th to February 6th, 2021). Likewise, during the winter season T20 events in Bangladesh and Australia usually take place in December and January.

Khalid Al Zarooni, Vice-Chairman, ECB, remarked, “We see this league as another premier addition to our growing tournament calendar. Emirates cricket and the UAE have a proven history of identifying and embracing initiatives that underpin the success of the game, as well as encourage and develop home-grown talent.”

Robin Singh (former Indian cricketer), the national team coach who is also the Director of Cricket, UAE, was exuberant about the fitness level of his players.

“What was nice to see in the (T10) tournament was that, when they were up against the big boys, people were not afraid. That is a real great sign,” Singh exulted.

The former India all-rounder has targeted his team qualifying for both the 50-over and T20 World Cups, and is demanding total physical fitness from his players.

Added a determined Singh, “I’m here to win. There is no question of just competing. I have said this again and again when we practice or play. We are not here to compete, we are here to win. Simple as that.”

He continued, “You don’t get accolades for coming second. No way. You don’t achieve anything for coming second. We need to focus on being the No 1 Associate country going forward. That is the first step. It is a process, and it will take time. It will take one or two years,” Singh elaborated.

He concluded by stating, “But I want to get the attitude into people where, when they come here, we are as good as anybody else. These things will only happen if we train hard, we play good cricket, and we play against better opposition. We should be in a position to win.”

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