Tournament kicks off on Thursday even as some players have pulled out, but there is already talk of it being played in other established cricket countries in future
Despite teething problems T10 Cricket League organisers have plans to expand competition in Season 2
Organisers of the T10 Cricket League already have plans to expand the event next year, despite some opposition facing the tournament’s launch.
The first four-day, six-team competition in a new 10-overs-per-side format will start at Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Thursday.
The tournament will star the likes of Virender Sehwag, Shahid Afridi, Eoin Morgan and Sarfraz Ahmed.
The Dubai-based businessmen who have set up the competition have big plans for it, including staging competitions in established cricket countries elsewhere, as well as the United States in the future.
They have a 10-year agreement to stage matches at grounds in the UAE. In exchange, UAE cricketers are set to benefit. Two players have been recruited to each of five franchises this season.
In the 2018 version, which is planned to have eight franchises, there are due to be four UAE-based players per squad, with at least two guaranteed to start in each XI.
The lead up to the debut season has not been without issues, though. Leading Pakistan cricketers have been given consent to play in the competition by their country’s board.
However, the Pakistan Cricket Board had reportedly been wary of the effects the new competition might have, both on its players, and even on the popularity of the Pakistan Super League, the T20 competition due to be partly staged in the UAE in February.
Furthermore, a number of players selected in the initial draft, which was staged on a yacht in Dubai Marina last month, have since pulled out.
Kumar Sangakkara, one of the first players named as part of the new project, dropped out citing personal reasons.
He has been replaced in the Maratha Arabians squad by Dwayne Bravo. Punjabi Legends have replaced Rangana Herath with Ravi Bopara.
Bengal Tigers have been the worst affected franchise, with as many as six of their original squad unable to play in Sharjah this weekend.
That includes each of their first two draft picks, Sunil Narine and Mustafizur Rahman.
The franchise’s management have been forced into a busy week of business, just to ensure they can start the tournament with a full 15-player squad.
Their work bore fruit on Monday when David Miller and Marchant de Lange, two experienced limited-overs players from South Africa, were recruited.
Salman Iqbal, the T10 League president, is sure the doubters will be proved wrong when the competition starts.
“When Kerry Packer came up with the white ball [in World Series Cricket in Australia in 1977], the whole world was against him,” Iqbal said.
“They were so strict, they said whoever goes to Australia to play, won’t be able to play for their own countries. The same thing happened with T20, and some of the press is going against T10, especially in Pakistan.
“I think the opposition is going to die out. There is always somebody out there who wants to talk against something. Once the first ball is bowled, all these problems will die out.”
Iqbal, who also owns the Karachi Kings PSL franchise, said there is a long-term commitment to T10 cricket.
“This is the first year, and it is not a pilot project,” he said. “Six teams are signed for 10 years, and the second year will be bigger. We have come with a plan.”
Shaji Ul Mulk, the T10 League’s creator, said he expects Sharjah Cricket Stadium to be sold out on Thursday and Friday, and also projects strong sales for finals day on Sunday.
“Traditionally in Sharjah, they tell me that 50 per cent of sales happen on the day of the match,” Ul Mulk said.
“In Sharjah, a lot of people can walk up. We have the right ingredients for a full house, because of the concept.”