Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance, unveils the T10 League trophy along with Shaji Ul Mulk. Image Credit: Atiq ur Rehman/Gulf News

Sharjah: The Heera Group T10 Cricket League got off to a colourful start with some of the world’s best cricketers looking to get in on the action. The excitement of how this format may ultimately pan out was palpable in each player. The fans, most of whom had turned out in the jerseys of participating teams, added to the visual spectacle.

The spectators cheered for Sharjah’s evergreen cricket hero Shahid Afridi and India’s Virender Sehwag, two of the hardest hitters in the game who enthralled them many a time in the past. Darren Sammy, the two-time T20 World Cup winning captain, immediately on arrival at the stadium, had a net practice session and acknowledged the cheers of fans waving to the players.

Dwayne Bravo, who replaced Kumar Sangakkara in the Maratha Arabians team, revealed why he agreed to come for the tournament on short notice. “This is the first T10 tournament in a beautiful country and so I could not say no.”

Six franchises — Bengal Tigers, Kerala Kings, Maratha Arabians, Pakhtoons, Punjabi Legends and Team Sri Lanka attended the opening ceremony. As the league has drawn a number of top players from England, West Indies, Pakistan, Bangladesh, South Africa, Afghanistan, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, and hosts UAE, the crowd too consisted of people from these countries.

England skipper Eoin Morgan, who will captain Kerala Kings, when asked about how successful the tournament could turn out to be, replied: “There are a lot of top class cricketers here. In fact, every team is made up of superstars. It is important for these superstars to perform well for the league to do well.”

The crowd gave a standing ovation as the players were paraded around the ground. As Waqar Younis the coach of the Bengal Tigers, said: “The number of dot balls the bowlers can bowl is very important.”

In fact, Pakistan allrounder Imad Wasim, who plays for Maratha Arabians, said: “A dot ball will be equivalent to scoring a goal in football. So I think we should call that delivery in T10 as goal ball.”

The fact that each match will get over in 90 minutes will make cricket look like football, which also is played within this timespan.

Two of the legendary bowlers from Pakistan — Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis are the coaches of Maratha Arabians and Bengal Tigers respectively. In fact, Bengal Tigers team co-owner Rizwan Sajan felt that since in this format bowlers can bowl only two overs, Younis could have bowled and crowd witnessed his searing yorkers again.

This league is being staged under the aegis of the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) and given official sanction by the International Cricket Council (ICC). Two UAE players will be part of the six teams. UAE skipper Rohan Mustafa, who will play for Kerala Kings, said: “It is a big opportunity for the players to show our talent. We are taking part in the World Cup qualifiers soon and it will be good to spend some time with international cricketers and learn from them.”

Today’s fixtures:

From 4pm:

Bengal Tigers v Punjabi Legends

Maratha Arabians v Team Sri Lanka

Punjab Legends v Kerala Kings

Pakhtoons v Team Sri Lanka