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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Next month's UAE T20x cancelled by Emirates Cricket Board

Buyers were found for only two of five planned franchises for event, which was due to start next month

The inaugural season of the UAE T20x was scheduled to be held in the months of December and January. Chris Whiteoak / The National
The inaugural season of the UAE T20x was scheduled to be held in the months of December and January. Chris Whiteoak / The National

The UAE T20x has been cancelled, after buyers were found for only two of the five planned franchises for the event, which was due to start next month.

“Following talks between the Emirates Cricket Board [ECB] and event promoter OPi, it has been mutually agreed that the planned UAE T20x franchise cricket league will not take place in the UAE this coming December/January,” a statement from the organisers read.

“The decision follows the conclusion of the Invitation to Tender process for tournament franchises.

“Both the ECB and OPi had been hopeful of achieving the sale of five franchise teams for the first year of the tournament.

“Whilst negotiations had been completed on two franchise teams and a further three were well advanced, it was felt that there was no longer sufficient time to close the sales process and to successfully deliver and promote a December event.”

The new Twenty20 competition, set to involve a variety of the world’s best-known players, had been planned to start on December 19, with the player-draft scheduled for next week.

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Five “icon” players had already been announced as taking part – Eoin Morgan, David Miller, Andre Russell, Shahid Afridi and Kumar Sangakkara. AB de Villiers has also been active promoting the event, as the league’s non-playing ambassador.

However, the decision was taken late on Wednesday to shelve the event. The competition had been rumoured to be facing problems for some time.

The league had met with resistance since even before it was formally announced, chiefly from the Pakistan Cricket Board.

The PCB have long staged home matches in the UAE involving their national team, as well as the Pakistan Super League.

There was a concern the new UAE-based competitions would impinge on the popularity of their events.

The ECB appeased the PCB by agreeing to schedule both of their own home-made events in quick succession, at a time that does not clash with either the PSL or limited-overs matches of the Pakistan national team.

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Read more:

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The T10 League, which will go ahead as planned starting on Wednesday, November 21, is a privately-run competition endorsed by the ECB.

The scheduled start date of the UAE T20x also clashed directly with that of the Big Bash League in Australia.

Steve Smith, the former Australia captain, was the one player of note from that country to have registered for the UAE league, given he will still be serving his domestic suspension when the BBL is on.

The shelving of the competition will be a blow felt by many administrators, coaches and players worldwide.

Earlier this month it was announced that over 500 players from around the world had registered an interest to be drafted.

That list ranged from household names like Smith, Moeen Ali, Jason Roy, Shakib Al Hasan and Lasith Malinga, to players from countries as far beyond cricket’s mainstream, such as Japan and Germany.

As recently as Monday, Sangakkara was promoting the event, suggesting players to watch out for in a competition that is planned to have a significant focus on non-Test playing countries. As many as 125 players in the draft list are from Associate nations.

The news might be most keenly felt by players from the UAE. Three places in each of the five, 16-man squads were to be reserved for UAE players.

Thirty of them listed had been listed in the draft, from players with experience of league cricket elsewhere like Rohan Mustafa and Chirag Suri, to the highly-regarded schoolboy cricketer Jonathan Figy.

Although a number of them will be involved in the T10 League, the players will likely be disappointed to miss out on a league they were glad to call their own.

“All the big teams [cricket countries] in the world have their own leagues now,” Suri said earlier this week.

“What it does is increase the pool of players you can choose from. That is very good for the overall development of the game.

“Where did the UAE players in the past get a chance to run shoulders with the best in the world? The format is really exciting and I think this is the right way to go ahead with cricket in the UAE – having our own league.”