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Graham Gooch hopes retired players ‘still have that competitive nature’ and will take Masters Champions League seriously

Wasim Akram, Brian Lara, Adam Gilchrist and Jacques Kallis are just some of the retired cricket greats who will take part in the Masters Champions League (MCL) in the UAE in February next year, writes Osman Samiuddin.
Icons share a gag at Masters Champions League launch. Dubai, 3 June 2015. Courtesy Bell Pottinger
Icons share a gag at Masters Champions League launch. Dubai, 3 June 2015. Courtesy Bell Pottinger

DUBAI // Ever wondered how well Wasim Akram’s yorkers might have fared in Twenty20 cricket? Or what shots Brian Lara or Adam Gilchrist may have added to their repertoire had they played more of the format?

The time for wondering may soon be over. Akram, 49, Lara, 46, Gilchrist, 43, and Jacques Kallis, 39, are just some of the retired cricket greats who will return to the field once again to take part in the Masters Champions League (MCL) in the UAE in February next year.

The league, in the making for three years, was finally launched formally on Wednesday in Dubai. For now at least it has beaten to the punch plans for another veterans Twenty20 league, allegedly the brainchild of Shane Warne and Sachin Tendulkar.

Read more:

– Kumar Shyam: Brian Lara, Adam Gilchrist and Wasim Akram among possible players for Masters Cricket League in UAE

– Osman Samiuddin: Dubai set to launch new Twenty20 cricket league for former stars

Legend circuits are common in most sports, though curiously cricket has never really bought into the concept. Previous attempts at establishing a circuit have usually fizzled out.

Organisers of the MCL, however, appear to have gone to some lengths to ensure this league does not go the same way. As with the Indian Premier League, the MCL will also be a franchise-based league, with six teams taking part.

Sponsors and team owners have not yet been finalised but the event has been granted a 10-year license by the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB), which essentially grants it official status. FICA, the main global players’ body has also been consulted. That will smooth the paths of former players who want to get involved.

The league also has roped in Graham Gooch and Allan Border as members of the governing council that will oversee the league as well as draw up the regulations under which it is played.

The success, or otherwise, will of course depend on how seriously its players take it. Gooch is convinced the intrinsic competitiveness of the professional athlete will ensure that is the case.

“When any top-class cricketer walks over the white line he doesn’t want to get beaten by another cricketer,” he said. “Certainly guys who have retired still have that competitive nature.

“Yes there will be a social side around the tournament and it will be a festival of cricket, but nobody wants to get beaten when you walk on the field. That attitude never leaves you.”

All former players from around the world who have represented their country in a minimum of five international matches and are retired are eligible to play; each franchise will have a squad of 15 players but no more than four from one country.

Players will eventually join teams through an auction and theoretically, the pool is a vast one. As Lara pointed out, the bulk of the players may not be like him or Akram, who only played Twenty20 briefly.

“You will have a lot of recently retired players who have had a chance to play T20, so it won’t be so many who have only played Test or ODI,” he said.

“[Ricky] Ponting is a potential, as could be Mahela Jaywardene and Kumar Sangakkara. They are not signed but those are the players who will be attracted to this kind of thing.”

The former Australian batsman Dean Jones is also an important presence in the league and is likely to play a key role in getting cricketers interested.

“In the long run the idea is also to help out former cricketers,” Akram said.

“Some of them get jobs in commentating, or coaching. But most of them are struggling. So the idea is that these guys can come back to the sport they always love.”

osamiuddin@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE

Updated: June 3, 2015 04:00 AM

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