Robin Singh, UAE's Director of Cricket, wants to raise the bar for the new pool of cricketers. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Dubai: In a move to drive domestic cricket forward in the UAE under its new Director of Cricket, the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) on Monday took another step and launched the D20 League.

The announcement was made at Dubai Cricket Stadium in the presence of ECB General Secretary Mubasher Usmani and Robin Singh, the governing board’s Director of Cricket. The 20-over D20 League is sponsored by Dream11, who were the title sponsors of the recently concluded Indian Premier League (IPL) which was successfully hosted in the UAE.

According to Singh, the D10 tournament earlier helped the ECB identify and broaden its local pool of players, which meant it was time to look further. “The D10 actually sort of propelled this and helped identify players. When I came here people said there weren’t many players but that was an illusion to be honest,” former India allrounder and veteran coach Singh explained.

“Now going forward from there, the D20 will not only help enhance the profile of players, but also their longevity in the game in terms of fitness and will serve as a platform to pick more players in the future.

“When I came here I was told we had 15-20 players; now I feel we can easily have 50 and fit them into the scheme of things here. We are looking forward to the tournament as it is something that will boost cricket here because there is a lot of traction going forward with the IPL and there are a lot more players we have identified that can surprise people.

“We want to ensure this theme going forward as it will take the UAE to the big scene very soon.”

Singh said much thought had gone into creating a structure for the sport in a country which boasts some of the classiest facilities the world over. “Covid 19 struck soon after I joined the ECB but we actually spoke about putting in place a proper structure because of the facilities we have here. Not many know but we started training much earlier than other places. We started in June and have played many 50-over matches in the last three months.

“It’s not just about keeping players in the game but also grooming young players. That’s what we are looking to do. We are looking to meet our challenges innovatively. Despite Covid-19 making things difficult, we have still identified a number of young players that can be groomed in the U-16 and U-19 age groups.”

ECB General Secretary Usmani added: “We want to show the world the UAE has the pool of players needed to boost any form of cricket.

“There is an existing domestic structure and what was needed was to bring them on one domestic platform: link them and that’s why we thought of having a first class structure run by ECB.”

Fast facts on D-20 League

* The six teams that contested the D10 League - Team Abu Dhabi, Ajman Alubond, Dubai Pulse Secure, Sharjah Bukhatir XI, Fujairah Pacific Ventures and ECB Blues - will contest the D20 League that will run from December 6-24 at Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai Sports City.

* The teams will play each other twice on a round robin basis, with three matches played daily (1pm, 4pm and 8pm). The final will be held on December 24.

* The tournament will be played behind closed doors due to the Covid-19 regulations still in place in the UAE, but will be broadcast on various live streaming platforms like Fancode in the Indian subcontinent and Etisalat CricLife.

- The writer is a sports journalist based in Dubai