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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Success of T10 League Season 2 has established game as part of UAE sporting landscape

A year earlier, T10 had made a splash on debut, but had at times appeared a gaudy vanity project – almost literally an advert rather than a sporting event

Northern Warriors' Hardus Viljoen takes the wicket of Pakhtoons' Colin Ingram. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Northern Warriors' Hardus Viljoen takes the wicket of Pakhtoons' Colin Ingram. Chris Whiteoak / The National

There was much to cheer about the second season of the T10 League. There was a cast of highly-respected, exciting players involved, for starters.

The batsmen, more or less across the board, hit new levels of performance, the like of which were previously considered inconceivable.

On at least two occasions it was only the fact a run-chase had been completed, rather than the overs running out, that prevented batsmen reaching centuries. It is a tantalising landmark, but the batsmen this year showed it might be just about possible to score a century in a 10-over game.

The best bowlers found a way to stay relevant, too. There was a five-wicket haul, and, in the final, an off-spin bowler swung the game in his side’s favour with 2-11 off two overs. If an off-spinner can do it, then no-one else really has grounds for complaint.

And there were some players who emerged from the shadows of more famous peers to find a new level of celebrity.

Hardus Viljoen, a one-Test wonder for South Africa, was picked up as a replacement player by Northern Warriors in the lead up to the tournament. He ended it as its pre-eminent player, with 18 wickets from the 18 overs he bowled.

His colleague, Chris Green, was the spin-bowler who turned the final. Green has yet to play international cricket for Australia in any format.

And Nicholas Pooran, who has just five West Indies T20 International caps to his name, gave clear evidence he has a big future ahead of him, with a string of batting blitzkriegs.

All of which is the cricket. Which goes to show, T10 does just about allow enough scope for the sport to market itself.

A year earlier, T10 had made a splash on debut, but had at times appeared a gaudy vanity project – almost literally an advert rather than a sporting event.

This time around, there was less airtime for the celebrities flown in from the subcontinent. There were no sponsored dot-balls or boundaries.

The cricketers were generally left to be the entertainment. Smart move, given the likes of Mohammed Shahzad, Alex Hales, Rashid Khan, Hazratullah Zazai and Jonny Bairstow were members of the cast.

Shaji Ul Mulk, the chairman and founder of T10, seemed content in the aftermath of Season 2.

“T10 is unique in itself,” he said. “It more complements the other leagues than competes or ranks against them.

“Ideas are many, but proof of concept was achieved last year and consolidated this year.

“Here is the real achievement. Now the world is talking about what T10 is all about. The players love it.

“That is the real achievement as far as T10 is concerned. Yes, for us looking ahead, we would not be surprised if there is a T10 World Cup and a T10 Olympics.”

Grand plans, then, but at least the UAE-based league will stay as it is for the foreseeable. Ul Mulk said the event will remain an eight-team league, with a broadly similar, 12-day timespan next year, and will only be re-evaluated in “two to three years”.

The league is already starting to feel like an established part of the UAE sporting landscape, and its sponsors say they are committed to growing the format further.

“Although I am new to cricket, the enthusiasm and passion that I have seen among the crowd tells me that this game deserves fresh capital, resources and strong corporate support to grow and I am happy that our organisation has taken this as seriously,” Sami Al Refai, the director of Ghalia Group, said.

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Read more:

Hardus Viljoen explains joy of dismissing Shahid Afridi in T10 League final

Northern Warriors beat Pakhtoons to win T10 League title in Sharjah

The Cricket Pod: T10 League proves it has place in game's calendar