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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 October 2018

T10 League set to expand despite president's resignation and alleged investigation

The tournament enters its second edition but the build-up has been fraught with issues, none more so than Salman Iqbal's departure and a reported investigation into the title sponsor

Shaji Ul Mulk, speaking ahead of the inaugural T10 League last year, has jumped to the defence of the tournament. Pawan Singh / The National
Shaji Ul Mulk, speaking ahead of the inaugural T10 League last year, has jumped to the defence of the tournament. Pawan Singh / The National

Organisers of the T10 League are expanding plans for their second season, despite the resignation of the competition’s president and a reported investigation into the title sponsor.

Salman Iqbal, the former T10 president and part-owner, stepped down on Wednesday, citing a “lack of transparency, unprofessionalism” and a lack of structure for his decision.

Further to that, it had been reported in India that Heera, T10’s major sponsor, were under investigation by the ministry of corporate affairs for an alleged Ponzi scheme.

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Within 24 hours, though, Shaji Ul Mulk, the T10 owner and chairman, had responded by calling a press conference to announce a global talent hunt ahead of the new season, headed up by former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram and former India captain Mohammed Azharuddin.

Despite the difficulties of recent days, Ul Mulk said it was business as usual ahead of the second season of T10, which is due to start on November 23.

“The second season of the T10 League is boosted by the formal recognition of the ICC,” Ul Mulk said. “The interest shown by the stakeholders encourages us to take the tournament to a whole new level this year.

“We have now set up a central secretariat and revamped the organisational structure to organise the T10 League that will match the fanfare seen only at global sporting events.

“This year’s T10 League will help expand and popularise the game of cricket further.”

England captain Eoin Morgan led Kerala Kings to the first T10 League title last year, in a competition that also involved highly-respected international players like Sarfraz Ahmed, Shakib Al Hasan and Misbah-ul-Haq.

Since then, three extra teams have been added to the competition, with the side that had represented Sri Lanka dropping out.

Shane Watson was recently unveiled as the lead recruit of one of the new teams, while Stephen Fleming, former New Zealand captain, will be involved as a coach.

Despite the impressive list of personnel involved, Iqbal cast doubt over what he called an “unsupervised” league as he stepped down this week.

"It is obvious that the league is heading in wrong direction,” Iqbal, a media magnate who also owns the Karachi Kings franchise in the Pakistan Super League, wrote in his resignation statement.

“We cannot allow Pakistani players to be misused for vested interests of foreign individuals.

“Proper systems and monitoring should be in place and controlled by ICC, which safeguards all players and sanctity of the game. I believe it is better for me to part ways with an unsupervised T10 league."

Ul Mulk responded to that immediately on social media, saying: “On behalf of T10 cricket league management, we categorically reject and dismiss the recent allegations made by one of our ex-management members. Our legal team will be taking an appropriate action.”

Ul Mulk also responded to the suggestion by Iqbal that Pakistan players should avoid the league. He said that T10 retains the support of the Pakistan Cricket Board, despite the recent changes at the top of that administration.

“Our relationship is at board level, and we do not see any challenges with the new set up,” Ul Mulk said.

“The league is an ICC sanctioned league, has the support of almost all the boards in the world – including the Pakistan Cricket Board. We have enjoyed that support and will continue doing so.”

Of the report relating to Heera, Ul Mulk said: “The investigation in India is news to us. The Heera group are our sponsors. If there has been an allegation made against them, we will follow that.”

The league’s owner was keen to focus on the ambitious plan to discover new unknown players good enough to play in a league that is just two months away.

“This is the first league to start a global talent hunt,” Wasim Akram said. “We are starting off in two big cricket nations, Pakistan and India. In India and Pakistan, there are so many kids who play cricket, but only 11 to 16 players get picked up by their countries.

“In this league, they will get to play with or against, the modern greats, get to know their skills and mindsets, and at the end of it there is the chance to play for UAE if they want to.”