Kolkata: The Abu Dhabi T10 League, according to a top official of Abu Dhabi Cricket, promises to fulfil the UAE capital’s need for a world class cricket event of their own which has the potential to drive ‘‘inbound cricket tourism.’’ The fourth edition of the event, which was postponed from November this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will be held between January 28 to February 6 in 2021.
‘‘When we were in talks to take over the product sometime in 2018, we were on the lookout to host a world class cricket event of our own. We had Formula One, golf, tennis but when it came to cricket, we were being opportunistic hosts with all the bi-lateral series. We looked at what was available and in Abu Dhabi T10 ticked all the boxes. we liked the fast-paced nature of the it, the private ownership part of it,’’ said Matthew Boucher, the proactive Chief Executive Officer of Abu Dhabi Cricket, who had also been a key figure behind a seamless conduct of the Abu Dhabi leg of Indian Premier League between last September and November.
‘‘What we wanted was an event which could result in inbound cricket tourism. Apart from the high octane action, it gave an opportunity for fans to watch upto three matches - which means 66 top cricketers - in a day. It had the makings of a very legitimate tourism product,’’ Boucher told Gulf News in an exclusive interview on zoom.
This is the second of their five-year agreement with the management of the T10-League, which runs till 2023, and promises to be bigger and better this time with the eight franchises aligning their forces with players from England, West Indies, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the Players’ Draft last week. There is a possibility of limited entry of crowd but Boucher refused to commit on it unless he has an official word from the Abu Dhabi government.
‘‘We don’t have permission for crowd, but a clearer picture will emerge in about a week. If it arrives, it will be strictly monitored with a maximum of 20-25% of the capacity to be allowed only at grand stands of Sheikh Zayed Stadium. While I am all for the crowd, but the broadcast experience was so great during an event like the IPL that one never felt that there were no fans at the venues. The telecast for the T10 event is expected to give a same experience,’’ he said.
The second half of the year had been an extremely busy one for members of the cricketing establishment of the UAE to host the IPL 2020 successfully, and Boucher and his team were no exception. ‘‘I had been extremely busy but our experience of hosting 22 IPL matches, 93 practice sessions between two of the teams based here: Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders, had been invaluable. We were privileged to understand how the gold standard of safety protocol works with bluetooth technology in the team hotels, venues and practice facilities,’’ recalled the Briton.
‘‘It’s the same template which we will be following for the T10 this year. Members of the eight teams will start arriving from January 20-21, then they will have an isolation period of three days and then four days’ practice before the action starts. Teams will be tested 48 hour prior to each match, and the condensed format of the tournament means that they will be tested very, very regularly,’’ Boucher revealed.
Looking beyond the upcoming edition of Abu Dhabi T10, there is an educated guess that the IPL may come back in the UAE next year. Asked how would Abu Dhabi Cricket would be looking to build on the relationships with the Board of Control for Cricket in India and the two Abu Dhabi-based teams, Boucher said they would love to ‘‘foster’’ the relationships and be open to host any of their programmes in future.