Dubai: A momentous occasion in Emirates Cricket’s history after 24 UAE players have been selected for the six franchises in the inaugural edition of the International League T20, a move that will give the current crop of players the chance to rub shoulders and learn from the best in the business while also propelling the growth of the game at the grassroots level.

“Today is an extremely rewarding day as the league, at its heart, is built on the foundation of development for UAE Cricket and the UAE players,” Mubashshir Usmani, General Secretary Emirates Cricket, said in a press release from the league on Friday. “To be in the position to now share with the cricketing world that we have delivered on this mandate, with the support and commitment from our franchises, that 24 of the best available UAE talents have been secured (by the franchises). It is an incredible day for Emirates cricket and the Board.

Mubashshir Usmani

Exceptional deep pool

“We are delighted that alongside a number of capped players the performance and development teams have identified a number of budding uncapped players from an exceptionally deep pool on offer.”

With just over a month to go for the first ball to be bowled at the Dubai International Stadium, this announcement firms up the teams, leading into the league’s inaugural edition of the professional franchise-based T20 tournament, which has received multi-year ICC approval.

The six franchise teams will comprise 84 international, including many from Associate Nations, and 24 UAE-based players. The franchises — Abu Dhabi Knight Riders, Desert Vipers, Dubai Capitals, Gulf Giants, MI Emirates and Sharjah Warriors — will compete in the 34-match from January 13 to February 12 across UAE’s world-class cricket facilities in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.

CP Rizwan

Gulf Giants have secured the services of UAE whiteball skipper CP Rizwan and young teenage all-rounder Aayan Khan, who has made rapid strides since he made his international debut in the two-match series against Bangladesh in October. The 16-year-old produced some impressive spells with his left-arm spin and has come up with a few cameos in the middle order in the last few months, including the first round of the T20 World Cup in Australia. Another impressive addition is Sanchit Sharma, who could trouble the batters by swinging the ball both ways with his medium-pace and also a competent batter to swell the total towards the end.

Aayan Khan
Teenage all-rounder Aayan Khan will be in the focus during the UAE ILT20 League. Image Credit: Courtesy: ECB

MI Emirates have also made some smart picks with veteran opener Muhammad Waseem, one of the pillar’s of UAE batting, vice-captain and wicketkeeper-batter Vriitya Aravind, off-spin all-rounder Basil Hameed and yorker-specialist Zahoor Khan.

Muhammad Waseem
UAE opener Muhammad Waseem, who has the big-match temperament, will be enjoying his role for MI Emirates. Image Credit: Courtesy: ECB

Legspin sensation Karthik Meiyappan, who has etched his name in the history books by claiming a hat-trick against Sri Lanka in the World Cup, will be eager to showcase his talents with the Sharjah Warriors, which has another young all-rounder Alishan Sharufu and Junaid Siddique, the medium-pacer who hit the longest six in Australia during the World Cup.

Karthik Meiyappan

Keen to join Desert Vipers

Veteran all-rounder Rohan Mustafa, the country’s leading run-scorer and wicket-taker in Twenty20 Internationals, will have a big role for Desert Vipers as the former UAE captain’s all-round capabilities will be key to their fortunes. The 34-year-old will also have guide 19-year-old Ronak Panoly and Ali Naseer (18), both of whom played in January’s ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup in the Caribbean, and experienced left-arm seam bowler Sheraz Ahmad, who has already featured in previous editions of the Bangladesh Premier League and the Lanka Premier League.

“I was very excited to hear that I would be joining the Desert Vipers. There were some other teams (interested in me) but honestly, I was very keen to join this team,” said Mustafa, speaking to the Vipers Voices podcast from the United States of America where he is playing in the T20 US Open in Florida.

Rohan Mustafa
Veteran UAE all-rounder Rohan Mustafa is eager to be part of the Desert Vipers squad in the inaugural ILT20. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News Archives

The off-spinner joins an already powerful spin bowling attack that also includes Scotland slow left-armer Mark Watt and leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga from Sri Lanka, but Mustafa said there was room for all three to play together in matches during the ILT20.

“Hasaranga can bat and so can I, so that is a plus point. We are both all-rounders and in the UAE we play on spinning tracks so it will not be surprising if all three spinners play along with two fast bowlers, because I believe spinners will be more effective (especially) in Dubai.”

List of selected 24 UAE players:

Abu Dhabi Knight Riders: Matiullah Khan, Fahad Nawaz, Sabir Ali, Zawar Farid.

Desert Vipers: Rohan Mustafa, Sheraz Ahmad, Ali Naseer, Ronak Panoly.

Dubai Capitals: Hazrat Luqman, Chirag Suri, Jash Ginyani, Raja Akif Ullah Khan.

Gulf Giants: Aayan Khan, Sanchit Sharma, CP Rizwan, Ashwanth Valthapa.

MI Emirates: Muhammad Waseem, Basil Hameed, Vriitya Aravind, Zahoor Khan.

Sharjah Warriors: Karthik Meiyappan, Alishan Sharafu, Junaid Siddique, Muhammad Jawadullah.