Tournament, beginning on Thursday, marks Abu Dhabi Cricket's first step towards establishing emirate as hub of game, acting CEO Matt Boucher says
Vision for Abu Dhabi T20 Trophy to be cricket's own Club World Cup
The UAE capital is all set to host its first cricket tournament along the lines of the Fifa Club World Cup.
Abu Dhabi Cricket (ADC) on Wednesday launched the Abu Dhabi T20 Trophy, which gets under way at Zayed Cricket Stadium on Thursday, as part of its ambitious bid to make the emirate a hub of the game.
The ADC began this project by lending a stage to international and club competitions organised by cricket boards outside the country - the annual Pakistan Super League being a case in point. Having been there and done that, however, it was time for to have its own tournament.
“We wanted to follow something on the lines of the Fifa Club World Cup, where international teams are invited to Abu Dhabi,” ADC's acting chief executive Matt Boucher said, referring to the annual football competition that pits the best club teams from each of the six continents, as well as the winners of the host country's national league, against each other.
Boucher said the three-day tournament marks the ADC's first step towards establishing its own brand, in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC).
“We know what we are doing," Boucher said. "It’s time to move ahead from just hosting events run by the Pakistan Cricket Board or the Board of Control for Cricket in India."
The inaugural season will see six franchises from six countries drawn into two groups of three, with round-robin games leading up to the final between the top two sides on Saturday.
"When we are hosting PCB or BCCI events, the marketing and promotion is not ours. We are paid a budget to run that event on their behalf,” Boucher pointed out.
"This is the first time ever we are running a cricket tournament."
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The Abu Dhabi T20 joins an ADSC calendar already packed with 120 events, including the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, UAE Tour, ITU World Triathlon and Club World Cup.
But despite prior experience, Boucher concedes it will be a learning process.
“We are going to take feedback from captains of all the teams," he said. "It is an opportunity for us to learn how to be at the centre of world cricket."
ADSC general secretary Aref Al Awani said the tournament marks the beginning of a new era. “We are delivering on our promise of an exciting new era of cricket in the emirate,” Al Awani said.
“Cricket fans can look forward to three days of exciting, high-level action in what we anticipate will be fiercely-fought games."
Indeed, fans will likely be treated to quality action given that the contest involves the champions of their respective national leagues, including Boost Defenders (Afghanistan), Hobart Hurricanes (Australia), Yorkshire Vikings (England), Lahore Qalandars (Pakistan), Auckland Aces (New Zealand) and Multiply Titans (South Africa).
The Titans are packed with Proteas internationals, including captain Albie Morkel, who returns to the emirate where he played in the Indian Premier League four years ago.
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“For some of us, it is very exciting to be playing cricket again in Abu Dhabi," Morkel said. "For most, who haven’t played cricket overseas, they are very excited and can’t wait to get going."
The South African all-rounder is mindful that his teammates have not played much T20 cricket in recent times.
“We are just into the pre-season at home and started the four-day game," he said. "So, we have not had much time to back our T20 skills but hopefully we will make that change quite quickly.”
The Titans face the Defenders on Friday and the Aces on Saturday.
Another side to watch out for will be the Qalandars, led by Pakistan all-rounder Abdul Razzaq, and brimming with talents handpicked by Aaqib Javed, the former UAE coach who is now with the franchise.
Razzaq hopes the younger players see the big picture. "This tournament presents an opportunity for them to be chosen for the Pakistan Super League,” he said.