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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 October 2018

ECB confident of attracting star players for T20 tournament 

Ahead of the UAE's busiest ever season of cricket, Emirates Cricket Board and organisers of new event confident that prominent Pakistan players not centrally-contracted with the PCB will play

Zayed Abbas, member of the Emirates Cricket Board, and Salman Sarwar Butt, OPI chief executive, at the ICC Academy in Dubai Sports City. Antonie Robertson/The National
Zayed Abbas, member of the Emirates Cricket Board, and Salman Sarwar Butt, OPI chief executive, at the ICC Academy in Dubai Sports City. Antonie Robertson/The National

Organisers of the UAE’s new Twenty20 tournament are confident their venture will be a success, with or without the leading stars from Pakistan.

The Emirates Cricket Board, in association with sports management company OPI, will launch their own short-format competition for the first time in December.

The tournament has been two years in the planning. In the meantime, the Pakistan Super League has become an established feature of the UAE cricket season.

The Pakistan Cricket Board had raised concerns about the new event, and its potential challenge to the popularity of both international matches played here by the Pakistan national team, as well as the PSL.

The ECB last week announced concessions had been made on the cost of staging tournaments in the UAE for PCB.

Assurances have also been given that Pakistan and PSL matches will not clash with any other league cricket staged at stadiums in the Emirates.

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Read more on UAE cricket season:

Abu Dhabi T20 Trophy to welcome 'best of the best' teams for inaugural tournament

Afghanistan's Twenty20 league set for launch in the UAE in October

Emirates Cricket Board offer PCB assurances over hosting of Pakistan cricket in UAE

Long read: Cricket at the centre of Habib Ghazi's asylum-seeking journey

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They are hopeful the PCB might revise their decision not to release centrally-contracted national team players to play in the tournament.

But Salman Sarwar Butt, the OPI chief executive, points out there are enough talented Pakistani players of great renown that will be available.

“PCB has announced they will not allow, for now at least their centrally-contracted players to be released,” Butt said.

“Beyond their centrally-contracted players, there are quite a few Pakistani players available. They will absolutely be involved.”

The UAE competition has a focus on development. There will be three UAE players in each of the five franchises, plus three from other non-Test nations, as well as four emerging young players from around the world.

The remaining six players per team will be drawn from a pool of leading players from established countries, and Butt says the salaries on offer will allow the league to compete for the signatures of the very best players.

“We are very conscious that, as we move forward, players will select where they play based on the quality of the league, and what the league pays out,” Butt said.

“We don’t want to be less than anyone, other than obviously the [Indian Premier League], where pay is at a different level. We want to be at a level to compete with CPL [Caribbean Premier League], PSL, BPL [Bangladesh Premier League], in terms of salary scale. We will be right up there with them.”

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The UAE winter

Six different limited-overs cricket tournaments are scheduled to take place at UAE stadiums over the 2018/19 season.

Australia and New Zealand are also due to face Pakistan in bilateral series in Tests, one-day internationals and Twenty20 internationals.

This is what the schedule could look like.

  • Sep 13-28: Asia Cup
  • Oct 4-6: Abu Dhabi T20 Trophy
  • Oct 5-23: Afghanistan Premier League
  • Nov: Pakistan v Australia/New Zealand
  • Dec 10-Jan 10: T10 League, followed by the new Emirates Cricket T20
  • Feb-Mar: Pakistan Super League

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The ECB were happy to remain patient ahead of the launch of their new concept, which was first floated in 2016. However, it is now set to be rolled out during the busiest season ever for the UAE’s cricket grounds.

They are confident it will hold its own among the plethora of competitions. The T10 League was staged for the first time last year, while another new T20 league, run by the Afghanistan Cricket Board, will also debut in October.

There is a three-day T20 festival in Abu Dhabi scheduled for the start of October, while the PSL is also set to return in February.

“UAE is always a busy market, no matter which sport it is,” Zayed Abbas, the Emirates Cricket Board member, said.

“We can see international cricket one week, then the next week there is a World Cup of horse racing. It is a busy place for sports entertainment. I think we have been managing really well across the different sports.

“Even with all these leagues we are expecting to host, we should be able to manage really well.”