Dubai: The DP World International League T20, which begins on Friday, January 13, is set to usher in a new era for UAE cricket as the inaugural six-team franchise league is set to be a red-letter day for the 24 local-based players and for generations to come.
For the UAE players, while rubbing shoulders with some of the best Twenty20 players in the world and with the ECB’s rules stipulating a minimum of two UAE players in the playing XI, it’s a big leap in terms of quality.
“Just to win as many as we can and try to win the competition. To play good cricket and play one game at a time is really important in franchise cricket. The UAE players are good and exciting talents. It’s important that the UAE players play with the international players and learn from them. It’s big for anybody. The more they play, the more they can learn from them. The players are quite young and they are talented, it’s just that they need a bit of nurturing,” said Moeen Ali, Sharjah Warriors skipper.
The England vice-captain said the rest during the last few weeks has refreshed him and he is feeling fresh and raring to go after non-stop cricket that included the Twenty20 World Cup title-winning streak in Australia. The all-rounder has a good weapon in UAE leg-spinner Karthik Meiyappan, who claimed a hat-trick in the Twenty20 World Cup against Sri Lanka, along with Junaid Siddiqu, Alishan Sharafu and Muhammad Jawadullah.
“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, had said during an earlier announcement. “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.”
A day before the start of the inaugural ILT20 League in the UAE, seasoned West Indian all-rounder Dwayne Bravo said he is eagerly looking forward to pass on his knowledge to the younger cricketers at the MI Emirates set-up, as they aim for the crown.
Bravo, who will perform his blockbuster ‘Champion’ song at the opening ceremony of the tournament, also expects his team to perform in the same vein under fellow West Indian Keiron Pollard’s leadership.
“I think it’s important to pass on whatever knowledge I have (about the game) and try to develop the next generation of cricketers. While I still enjoy playing, I have to accept reality, the time will soon come and after this to share the information with others,” Bravo said during the league-organised press conference in Dubai.
UAE opener Muhammad Waseem, who has scored 743 runs in 20 T20s, said that he can’t wait to play alongside Pollard in the MI Emirates camp. “I am feeling very happy and I feel lucky to be a part of such a big franchise. This is a huge moment for us, which I can’t put into words. I will try to play my best and showcase the talent that UAE has. I can’t wait to play alongside Kieron Pollard.”
Dream come true
Another young talent from the UAE, Vriitya Aravind, who has scored 536 runs and effected 12 catches & three stumpings in 25 T20s, said that he always wanted to play for the MI franchise. “It’s an honour and a privilege to represent one of the most-successful cricket franchises in the world. I saw Sachin Tendulkar play for MI (in the IPL) and I wanted to represent the franchise at some point in my life and therefore I feel lucky to get a chance to be a part of MI Emirates at an early age. I am looking forward to playing with Nicholas Pooran since we have similar roles,” said the wicketkeeper-batter.
In the opening match on Friday, Dubai Capitals will take on Abu Dhabi Knight Riders at the Ring of Fire after a glitzy opening ceremony at the Dubai International Stadium. There is hardly anything to choose from bewteen the teams, who will carry their Indian Premier League rivalry to the UAE shores. Both are armed with some quality players who could give them a winning start, though the toss could play a vital role during the early part of the tournament as the fresh pitch and the dew could assist the pacers.
Fun and games
The Abu Dhabi Knight Riders captain Sunil Narine says he is not under pressure and wants the team to enjoy the ride in the DP World ILT20. “Anything you do in cricket is challenging. We have to adapt and enjoy what we are doing. I hope everyone enjoys the cricket and gives their best,” said the West Indian all-rounder during the press conference on Thursday.
Narine, who has come with his family, also believes that the UAE is a great place to play cricket. “Having my family here is great as we can do a little bit of sightseeing during our downtime instead of just relaxing in the room. There are a lot of things to do in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.”
Rovman Powell, skipper of the Dubai Capitals, wants everyone to use the opportunity to improve, especially the UAE players. “This is a start of something special. Not from a personal standpoint, but from the team and franchise standpoint. This is a good chance for the UAE players to showcase their talent. The DP World ILT20 is a good launching pad for them and, hopefully, they’ll utilise this opportunity.”
The three teams backed by IPL owners, MI Emirates, Abu Dhabi Knight Riders and Dubai Capitals, will try to stamp their authority in the newly-minted franchise tournament, tipped to be the second richest in the world after the IPL, Sharjah Warriors, Gulf Giants and Desert Vipers will ensure that they are no pushovers.
Vipers ready to strike
Colin Munro, the captain of Desert Vipers, is confident that his team will strike its opponents hard. “We have to look at the balance of our team. The hardest thing for us will be to find a way to fit all good players into the eleven. I just want all the boys to enjoy the cricket and their time in the UAE.”
James Vince, the skipper of the Gulf Giants, has giant hopes about his team’s chances, but accepts that all other teams are strong too. “We are excited to see the tournament get under way. Every team has good talent and I’m looking forward to seeing the teams play against each other. Most of my players travel from tournament to tournament and they know what to do in the coming days. It is important that they play their roles well,” said the skipper of the Adani Sportsline-owned franchise.
Giants head coach Andy Flower heaped praise on UAE teenager Aayan Khan, calling him an promising all-rounder, while UAE skipper CP Rizwan, power-hitting all-rounder Sanchit Sharma and left-hander Ashwanth Valthappa complete the home line-up.
Doors will open for fans to catch the opening ceremony on Friday from 4pm UAE time with the electrifying Badshah and Jason Derulo’s performances starting at 5:15pm, followed by the much-anticipated opener at 6.45pm. Fans can enjoy Badshah and Derulo’s glittering performance and the high-octane opening match for as little as Dh22 with enticing ‘Friends and Family’ packages on offer for an incredible Dh60 — for two adults and two children, and Dh80 for a group of four. This enticing ‘Friends and Family’ package will be available throughout the league starting at an incredible Dh20.
The league will be played in a 34-match format across the UAE’s three world-class cricket facilities in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. While the Emirates Cricket Board has laid out rules for inclusion of at least two UAE players, the use of the Smartball is another novelty that the league has brought into its domain.
The Smartball will assist ILT20 in providing real-time, in-depth analytics, and serve to enhance player performance much to the delight of cricket-fans across the globe.
Smartball’s cutting-edge technology consists of an ‘IoT’ device in the nucleus of the ball, which acts as the connection between various devices and portals — technology — communication — cloud, tracking various data points such as the speed of the ball, revolutions per minute, distance the ball travels after being struck by a batter, detection of the ball connecting with the bat or, in fact, any surface, measuring the change in direction the ball propels through the air or off the pitch, among many other needed and engaging statistics. Through the Bluetooth-driven technology, the data given by the Smartball will be transferred to the tournament’s match analytics provider, who will then provide this integral data to the tournament’s commentary, franchise and statistician teams — for the benefit of all.
Dubai Capitals: Rovman Powell (captain), Dasun Shanaka, Fabian Allen, Mujeeb Rahman, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Chamika Karunaratne, Isuru Udana, Sikandar Raza, Hazratullah Zazai, Chirag Suri, Daniel Lawrence, Jash Gianyani, Niroshan Dickwella, Fred Klaassen, George Munsey, Hazrat Khan, Raja Akif Ullah Khan, Joe Root, Robin Uthappa, Ravi Bopara, Yusuf Pathan and Ollie White.
Desert Vipers: Wanindu Hasaranga, Alex Hales, Tom Curran, Sam Billings, Colin Munro (captain), Tymal Mills, Matheesh Pathirana, Sherfane Rutherford, Rohan Mustafa, Shiraz Ahmed, Sheldon Cottrell, Ali Naseer, Adam Lyth, Dinesh Chandimal, Benny Howell, Mark Watt, Ruben Trumpelmann, Ronak Panoly, Jake Lintott and Gus Atkinson.
Gulf Giants: Shimron Hetmyer, Chris Jordan, James Vince (captain), Chris Lynn, Dominic Drakes, Jamie Overton, Liam Andrew Dawson, Ollie Pope, Ashwant Valthapa, CP Rizwan, Sanchit Sharma, Ayan Khan, Qais Ahmed, Richard Gleeson, David Wiese, Rehan Ahmed, Tom Banton, Tom Helm and Gerhard Erasmus.
MI Emirates: Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard (captain), Trent Boult, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Nicholas Pooran, Imran Tahir, Will Smeed, Jordan Thompson, Zahir Khan Pakten, Muhammad Waseem, Samit Patel, Zahoor Khan, Bradley Wheal, Bas de Leede, Andre Fletcher, Najibullah Zadran, Vriitya Aravind, Basil Hameed, Craig Overton, Tom Lamonby, Lorcan Tucker, Daniel Mouseley and McKenny Clarke.
Sharjah Warriors: Moeen Ali (captain), Evin Lewis, Chris Woakes, Mohammed Nabi, Dawid Malan, Marcus Stoinis, Chris Benjamin, Joe Denly, Rahmanullah Gurbaaz, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Karthik Meiyappan, Naveen-ul-Haq Murid, Junaid Siddique, Noor Ahmed, Khan Bilal, Mark Deyal, Alishan Sharafu, Muhammad Jawadullah and Jamal Todd.