SPO 240118 ILT20 Press Con CE001-1705595961812
From left: Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Nicholas Pooran, Chris Lynn, Colin Munro, Sunil Narine and Sam Billings with the DP World ILT20 trophy during a press conference in Dubai on Thursday. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: Innovation and learning go hand in hand. The DP World ILT20 league has ensured that the learnings from the first season are enhanced with innovation during the second edition of the league, which begins with defending champions Gulf Giants taking on Sharjah Warriors at the Sharjah International Stadium on Friday.

The ILT20 league, following in the footsteps of the Indian Premier League (IPL), the richest franchise league in the world, has introduced the Super Sub and Wild Cards for this edition. The IPL began the novel Impact Player rule in 2023, which resulted in many close contests. However, the teams will need to be spot-on in choosing their players to bolster the combination and introduce them at the right time.

It’s a tricky task, at least in the initial phase. But MI Emirates, AD Knight Riders, Dubai Capitals and Gulf Giants will have the edge over the others as the team management has experienced it first hand in the IPL last season.

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Star-studded field

The Super Sub is just one of the many components like dew, pitch conditions — the teams will be playing at all three venues across the UAE — that will all play their part in the 34-match league. But the six-team tournament has an improved quality with over 100 international players, including Twenty20 legends, taking part in Season 2.

Stars like David Warner, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Sunil Narine, Dwayne Bravo, Nicholas Pooran, Alex Hales, Shadab Khan, Rovman Powell, Dasun Shanaka, Sikandar Raza, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, James Vince, Chris Jordan, Trent Boult, Carlos Brathwaite, Ambati Rayudu, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Chris Woakes, Sherfane Rutherford and Sheldon Cottrell will all be in action during the next 32 days.

Some of the UAE players who have produced sterling performances in international matches recently like Aayan Khan, Muhammad Waseem, Aditya Shetty, Aryan Lakra, Karthik Meiyappan, Rohan Mustafa, Vritya Aravind, Basil Hameed, and Alishan Sharafu are all playing for the different teams. A total of 25 UAE players will feature in this edition.

Andy Flower
Gulf Giants coach Andy Flower speaking to the media during the jersey launch earlier this week. Image Credit: Supplied

“I’ve had an IPL with an Impact Player situation. It brings another tactical element to the game and also allows lot of teams to bring the leg-spinners and the mystery bowlers into the game more, which is a good thing. It makes the league slightly more competitive because you’ve got another element added to either your bowling attack or to strengthen your batting,” Gulf Giants coach Andy Flower told Gulf News.

The former Zimbabwe skipper is guarded in his approach as the defending champions begin their campaign against Sharjah Warriors. The coach aims to get a winning start and is looking at clinching one of the four playoff spots in the tournament.

Privileged position

“No pressure at all. We are the only team in this tournament that can win it for the second time. So that’s a really privileged position. It would be wonderful if we could achieve that, but we will have our focus on the first game in Sharjah on a relaid pitch. Of course, our goal is to win it, but we’ve got to move our sights back a little and want to make the playoffs first. We have to work very hard to make the playoffs,” the former Zimbabwe captain added.

“The quality has gone up in this tournament this year. The Sharjah Warriors have a strong squad and Desert Vipers were obviously a very good side last year and will be again. It should be super competitive.”

The Adani management has ensured that the Gulf Giants are in top condition with a 10-day preparatory camp, which Flower feels is the key for success.

“One of the challenges that all coaches and leaders face in the franchise leagues across the world is getting the team together very quickly. You don’t have much lead-in time. We’ve got together 10 days before the first game and that’s quite a long time. Only in the IPL, teams would spend that long in preparation,” Flower added.

Tom Kohler-Cadmore, skipper of the Sharjah Warriors, who produced some great knocks in the first season, said: “This year we have a more balanced team than last year. We have some very good all-rounders and excellent batting options. We are confident of our boys. Every team wants to have a winning start and that is what we will look forward to tomorrow. Hopefully, we can start well and go towards the final.”

SPO 240118 ILT20 Press Con CE006-1705595964835
Shoaib Akhtar during the press conference on the eve of the Season 2 of the ILT20 in Dubai on Thursday. Image Credit: Supplied

Great platform for UAE players

On Thursday, legendary Pakistan pacer Shoaib Akhtar, Brand Ambassador for the DP World ILT20 season 2, set the tempo for the action, saying: “They are all superstars. I am glad I was not born in this era. Players like Chris Lynn would have smacked me all over. Sunil Narine would have always got me out.”

Akhtar then lauded UAE for creating such a platform through this tournament. “We saw UAE Under-19 team beating Pakistan Under-19 and this tournament has played a big role in showcasing young talent here,” he added.

Knight Riders' batting bolstered

Abu Dhabi Knight Riders head coach Bharat Arun has a different task on hand after the Sunil Narine-led team finished at the bottom of the table last year. The former India all-rounder is confident that the current squad has what it takes to turn their fortunes around.

“For a team to come into the tournament, we want to finish at the top. Last year was not good, but this year is different from what it was,” said the former Indian bowling coach. “The batting department has been strengthened and we pretty much have a new-look team with very good experience. That’s going to add value to the outcome.”