The Emirates Cricket Board (ECB), governing body for the sport in the UAE, has revealed plans for a new Twenty20 league which it claims will be the most innovative and inclusive in the world.
The ECB said it has been granted a 10-year sanctioning agreement for the venture by the International Cricket Council (ICC), adding that the league will be formally unveiled later this month. The UAE-owned tournament, the name of which is yet to be decided, will make its debut in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah with five new franchise teams vying for the inaugural title in a 22-match format to be played over 24 days this December and January.
The five franchises will comprise a squad of 16 featuring six international star players, two emerging players from ICC full member countries, three players from ICC associate member nations, two junior players and three UAE cricketers.
The ECB claims the league has already received the support of six ICC full member nations – England, Ireland, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, New Zealand and the West Indies. David East, chief executive of the ECB, stated: “Our firm aim is for this event to take the sport to all corners of the UAE and to develop cricket at a grassroots level initially in – Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman and Ras Al Khaimah. This will not be just another T20 tournament, it will be a true international festival of sport and the hottest cricket ticket in the UAE.”
Nasim Ashraf, chairman of the league’s board of directors, former chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and ECB board member, said the new competition has been conceived to be a unique platform for the development of the best young cricket talent from around the world.
Ashraf said: “Our intention is to build a new event that is here to stay, and one that occupies a niche position in the international cricket calendar. We are not looking to compete with other T20 leagues, we are looking to develop an international festival of cricket that exists first and foremost for the benefit of the players, and with a very specific goal of helping to develop new talent from around the world and grow the game in keeping with global best practices.”
He added: “No other T20 competition has been established with such an international outlook, offering fans the chance to watch players from so many nations, from the international stars of the game to the best up and coming young talent. These are goals and values that are really important to the ECB and so we are pleased to offer our full support.”
The ESPNcricinfo website noted that the formation of the league could cause problems for the PCB, with Pakistan having played the majority of its ‘home’ games in the UAE since the attack on Sri Lanka’s team bus by gunmen in Lahore in March 2009.
The PCB is said to be insistent that it receive a free window for matches played in the UAE, with Malaysia reportedly under consideration as an alternative host nation should this arrangement be threatened.
A PCB official told ESPNcricinfo: “PCB will clarify its position after ECB has officially notified us. This ad is not placed by the ECB. It is placed by private sponsors of the league.”