Dubai: The new Twenty20 League, to be hosted by Emirates Cricket Board (ECB), seeks to create a pathway for youngsters around the world to become top cricketers and provide a platform for UAE players to showcase their talent alongside international stars.
Speaking to Gulf News, Salman Sarwar Butt, the Chief Executive Officer of the tournament and OPi Sports, a Dubai-based sports management company who are hosting the event, said: “This league will have five international teams named after five emirates and will create a pathway for a lot of youngsters. Today, players in the UAE have only the UAE team as their final destination but now they can look at the franchises they can potentially play for. The franchises will also work with the ECB and cricket councils to develop grassroots environment.”
Elaborating on the league’s agenda for cricket development, Butt said: “In a squad of 16 there will be six international players, three associate member players and three local players and four emerging players from around the world. So we are going to go out and bring in talent from here and globally to come and showcase themselves on this league.”
Asked what drove ECB to have its own tournament, Butt said: “ECB saw the opportunity because this is an international location for cricket. It has the facilities and the diaspora that follows cricket. Therefore, there was a desire to do an own event, especially with franchise leagues coming up. The ECB wanted to do something of their own. It is like building your own asset and hence in 2016 the ECB solicited the proposal and they chose the partner they wanted to work with and thereafter we got working on this project.
“The ECB and OPI are seeing this as a building an asset that takes care of a few critical things. Firstly, it positions the UAE through the lens of cricket to the world. Secondly, the UAE wants to become a destination for sports entertainment and sports tourism and this product is one of the bigger products in the world of sport to be launched in the emirates. Thirdly, it will attract players and broadcast interest from all over the world. The endeavour is to position it among the number of Twenty20 leagues that are elite.”
Butt revealed the progress that the league has made since its announcement. “We have got very good support from the ICC. We have consent from seven boards for sending their players such as South Africa, New Zealand, England, Afghanistan, West Indies, Ireland and Zimbabwe. We are talking to others too. We have a pool of 300 players who have already given their consent to play and have signed on a global ambassador and in the process of signing five team icons.
“The league will be an annual event and ECB has granted a 10-year license, which is renewable. The first edition is to be held between December 19 and January 11 at Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi and this slot may move a little back and forth every year according to the cricket season.”