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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 October 2018

Kerala Kings snap up Chris Gayle in T10 League draft as organisers rubbish rumours

November 23-December 2 tournament beset by problems of late, but Shaji Ul Mulk attempts to address them

West Indies superstar Chris Gayle will play for Kerala Kings in Season 2 of the T10 League. Getty Images
West Indies superstar Chris Gayle will play for Kerala Kings in Season 2 of the T10 League. Getty Images

Chris Gayle was the first pick in the Season 2 draft of the T10 League as the competition attempted to move on from the controversies engulfing it.

Kerala Kings, who won the first T10 competition in Sharjah last December, recruited the West Indian opener ahead of the expanded second edition.

The tournament, which starts again on November 23 and runs until December 2, has been beset by problems of late.

Salman Iqbal resigned as the league’s president last week, citing a “lack of transparency, unprofessionalism” and a flawed structure for his decision.

Ehsan Mani, the new Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman, then warned his country’s players against making themselves available until he had received assurances from ICC over the integrity of the league.

Shaji Ul Mulk, the owner and chairman of T10, took to the stage ahead of Monday's draft at a hotel in Dubai’s Habtoor City, to speak about the problems.

“There is absolutely no truth in [the allegations],” said Ul Mulk, the Dubai-based Indian businessman.

“We play cricket, we don't play politics. We only believe in playing straight. We don't believe in games.”

Shaji Ul Mulk of the T10 League has said he only believes in 'playing straight'. Pawan Singh / The National
Shaji Ul Mulk of the T10 League has said he only believes in 'playing straight'. Pawan Singh / The National

Season 2 clashes with the second Test between Pakistan and New Zealand in Dubai.

The PCB is also cautious about releasing players who will not be involved in the Test series.

But Shoaib Malik has been retained as Punjabi Legends’ leading player, while Mohammed Nawaz and Junaid Khan were also selected in the opening rounds of the draft. Each of them are part of Pakistan’s squad at the Asia Cup.

“Before I got involved in PCB, they had sent them [T10’s organisers] a list of 21 players who were not available,” Mani said.

“Apart from that, the PCB said you can approach any of our players. I have written to the sponsors and said, if you are doing it, you are doing it at your own risk, and your own cost. I, and the PCB, won’t go along with it if we have any reservations.”

Despite the shadow overhanging the league, there is a distinguished cast of personnel involved in both playing and coaching.

Stephen Fleming, Daniel Vettori and Robin Singh, who have a wealth of Indian Premier League experience, will be in charge of T10 sides.

Dean Jones, who has twice won the Pakistan Super League with Islamabad United, is the new coach of Pakhtoons.

Eoin Morgan, the England captain, remains captain of Kerala, while Darren Sammy, who twice won the World T20 with West Indies, leads Northern Warriors.

Vettori will be involved for the first time, and he is confident the competition will be a success.

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Eoin Morgan, right, led Kerala Kings to the first T10 League title in Sharjah last year. Getty Images
Eoin Morgan, right, led Kerala Kings to the first T10 League title in Sharjah last year. Getty Images

“I still haven’t seen a format of cricket yet that hasn’t been popular,” Vettori said. “I think it will take a bit of adjustment, coaching-wise, but hopefully the experiences of T20 will translate to T10.”

Dougie Brown, the UAE coach, was present in his role as an assistant coach for Maratha Arabians.

Last season, there were two places per squad reserved for UAE players, with one guaranteed a start in the XI.

The organisers are mulling over extending that quota to three players this season, although – paradoxically – that player pool will be supplemented by new additions from abroad.

A talent hunt, set to be headed by Wasim Akram and former India captain Mohammed Azharuddin, will take place in Pakistan and India to find 12 new, untried players.

They will be offered jobs with the organisers’ companies, with the possibility of representing UAE after three years’ residency here.