Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 June 2019

Could Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni play in UAE's newly proposed cricket league?

Months after UAE T20x was cancelled, Emirates Cricket Board says it is 'into final planning stages' to stage new event

India captain Virat Kohli, right, and teammate MS Dhoni are two of the biggest stars in world cricket at the moment. Aijaz Rahi / AP Photo
India captain Virat Kohli, right, and teammate MS Dhoni are two of the biggest stars in world cricket at the moment. Aijaz Rahi / AP Photo

The Emirates Cricket Board is believed to be hoping to entice leading Indian players to feature in a new “flagship” Twenty20 tournament in the Emirates.

The governing body for the sport in the UAE announced on Sunday it was “well into the final planning stages” to stage an “an ECB elite, international T20 cricket league [on] home soil”.

The announcement marks a revival of an idea that had already been aborted once.

Many of the sport’s leading players, including AB de Villiers, Eoin Morgan and Andre Russell, had been recruited ahead of a competition that was due to be known as the “UAE T20x” in December 2018.

A date had been set for a draft that was set to feature Steve Smith, the former Australia captain, as well as players from all over the world – not just the established elite countries.

However, it was cancelled a month before it was due to start, when only two of five planned franchises were purchased.

It has been suggested that competition met its demise because of friction with the Pakistan Cricket Board, who was said to be concerned about the distraction it would cause to the Pakistan Super League, as well as matches involving its national team.

In addition to that, the event was struggling to compete within a packed UAE calendar last season that also included the Asia Cup, the Abu Dhabi T20 festival, the T10 League, and the PSL.

The ECB is understood to be confident the new competition is feasible, though, especially if it does include the leading lights from the Indian game.

India’s stars, like Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni, are routinely blocked from playing in franchise leagues other than their own Indian Premier League.

It is hoped, though, that either leading India players, or possibly even IPL franchises, could feature in the new competition, as a result of strengthened ties between the ECB and the Board of Control for Cricket in India.

The fact the Asia Cup was hosted in the UAE last September on behalf of the BCCI was an indicator of that improved relationship.

And, while the global calendar for international T20 events is often said to be close to saturation point, next season in the UAE will at least be less crowded, with Asia Cup not being played, and PSL scheduled to return to Pakistan in its entirety.

“This league will be ECB’s official flagship tournament,” said Khalid Al Zarooni, the vice chairman of the ECB and president of Dubai Sports City.

“A long-term goal and vision of the board has been to own and to deliver an international-standard T20 league, one we have remained exceptionally committed to.

“We have had, and continue to have, very positive and constructive discussions with various Full Member and Associate Nations, the ICC, as well as various stakeholders where their collective response has been incredibly encouraging."

Updated: June 2, 2019 08:10 PM

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