Abu Dhabi T10: the race to score its first century
The showpiece cricket tournament gets underway with an intriguing milestone still to be reached
When the world’s first professional 10-overs-per-side cricket tournament started in 2017, its founder offered the prize of an apartment for the first player score a century.
Shaji Ul Mulk’s property was as safe as houses, of course. Nobody could possibly get close to an individual hundred when the team’s entire innings consists of just 60 balls, right?
Well, two seasons later, the landmark has still yet to be breached – at least in official competition. But there are signs we need to revise what we think possible of batsmen.
There are two players, for instance, in the third season of T10 who have managed the milestone before. Both will be part of the same team for Delhi Bulls.
Will Jacks, who was signed for Delhi after the draft and very much under the radar, hit a ton in a T10 tune up involving English county sides in Dubai ahead of the 2019 season.
The young Englishman managed it in just six overs. His effort included an over in which he hit every ball for six.
“I didn’t think about the hundred until I was on 98, because it all happened quite quickly,” he modestly said straight after that landmark innings.
His soon-to-be teammate Sherfane Rutherford, who will join up with the Bulls immediately after the West Indies T20 series against Afghanistan ends on Sunday, also hit three figures in a practice match before last year’s T10 League.
Whether we will see a century scored in competition this season is hard to forecast, particularly given the switch in venues from Sharjah to the capital.
It is the first time the league will be known as Abu Dhabi T10, a rebrand that stems from a deal that will see the tournament played at the Zayed Cricket Stadium for at least the next five years.
The tourism authority hope the more this new-concept cricket becomes established on the UAE sporting calendar, the more appeal it will have for holiday-makers, particularly from the subcontinent.
What will be a good score in Abu Dhabi? Over the two seasons of T10 that were played in Sharjah, the average was around 112.
The highest team total was 183 for two by Northern Warriors, who are the defending champions, while Alex Hales has the top individual score, 87 not out when he was playing for Maratha Arabians last season.
Sharjah is a far smaller playing area than Abu Dhabi, so scoring might not be quite so free now.
The Zayed Cricket Stadium has one of the biggest fields in the international game, but the boundaries will be marked between 65 and 68 metres for the T10.
Not tiny, but neither is it beyond the compass of the power-hitters that are everywhere among the eight T10 franchises.
Not that the cricket itself will left to sell the competition on its own. Far from it.
As part of their franchise agreements, each of the teams are compelled to promote themselves and the tournament by various means.
That ranges from the make-up of the playing squads, to flying in celebrities from the subcontinent to support them.
The Great Khali, the WWE wrestler and Hollywood actor, was one who watched from beside the boundary in the first season.
The teams are encouraged to think beyond cricket’s mainstream when selecting their sides. As such, there are players from Netherlands, Namibia, two United States internationals, and a duo from Nepal involved this year.
Understandably, the key market for the organisers is India and the subcontinent. Which is why they have pushed so hard to get the likes of Indian World Cup winners’ Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh involved.
Yuvraj, for his part, is being paid a king’s ransom to be here: $200,000 (Dh75,000) for 10 days’ work.
Some of the teams are aware there are new markets to be mined, too, though.
Team Abu Dhabi, the one-month old franchise who are the newest addition to the tournament, opted against picking any players from a list of Indians that included Irfan Pathan.
Instead, they went for the former Nepal captain Paras Khadka. With a nucleus of the Team Abu Dhabi operation being from the UAE – coach Dougie Brown, star players Rohan Mustafa and Rameez Shahzad – they were well aware of both Khadka’s talent, as well as the fact he is wildly-popular back in Nepal.
“It was an opportunity to leverage the massive support Nepalese players have here,” Will Kitchen, the former UAE performance manager who is a consultant for Team Abu Dhabi, said. “But at the same time, Paras is a fantastic player.”
One unplanned marketing ploy for T10, too, is the fact that controversy brings intrigue.
Qalandars, the Lahore-based Pakistan Super League side, will play in the T10 for the first time.
They will do so will an entirely makeshift side, though, after all of their Pakistan players were ruled out by a dubious decision by the Pakistan Cricket Board to go back on their decision to release players to play here.
T10’s organisers are furious, while Aaqib Javed, the put-upon coach, believes it has cast a stain on the PCB.
“What message are you putting across to the other boards, the ICC and the players as well?” Aaqib said. “How are they going to respect you?”
Coach: Aftab Ahmed
Player to watch: Andre Fletcher
Last season: Last (as Sindhis)
Coach: Mushtaq Ahmed
Player to watch: Kieron Pollard
Last season: Fourth (as Bengal Tigers)
Coach: Stephen Fleming
Player to watch: Adil Rashid
Coach: Tom Moody
Player to watch: Sandeep Lamichhane
Last season: Third
Coach: Andy Flower
Player to watch: Yuvraj Singh
Coach: Aaqib Javed
Player to watch: Tom Banton
Last season: Champions
Coach: Robin Singh
Player to watch: Andre Russell
Team Abu Dhabi
Coach: Trevor Bayliss
Player to watch: Moeen Ali
Updated: November 14, 2019 11:33 AM