A group of leading UAE cricketers will play alongside some of the stars of the women’s game when an innovative new tournament is launched in Dubai in May.
Another set of national team players, including the schoolgirl opener Theertha Satish, could yet play in the event, too, having been placed on standby.
The tournament will provide the best exposure yet for UAE cricketers, given that the six-team event is set to involve leading lights of the women’s game such as Suzie Bates, the New Zealand great, and Pakistan’s Sana Mir.
The competition is run under the auspices of Hong Kong Cricket, and had been due to be played in Kowloon. However, the logistics of Covid quarantine in Hong Kong have led the organisers to look to stage the event in Dubai Sports City instead.
It is set to involve 90 players from 36 countries. Forty of the players are from full Test-playing nations, with the rest coming from destinations as diverse as Bhutan, Vanuatu, Germany, as well as the group of players from the UAE.
The players will be divided into six teams, which will bear the names of the corporate brands they are representing.
“The concept has always been to have a grand slam tennis-type feel, in terms of having one venue in one city for all the matches, for two weeks with 19 games,” Shaun Martyn, the FairBreak founder, said.
“Having the teams corporately-branded, almost like the Tour de France or Japanese rugby, it means your team could have 15 players in it from 15 different countries.
“We see that as a big advantage to showcase the diversity in the game, and also the quality there is in women’s cricket in all parts of the world.
“A lot of the leading women’s players in Associate countries only play men’s cricket in their home countries, and they are highly skilled. You just don’t see them.
“We wanted to create a platform for them to express their skills, create an opportunity for them, and it is the first time they will be being paid.”
Martyn formerly managed the Australia player turned commentator Lisa Sthalekar. He has long been an avid promoter of the women’s game, and has been working on bringing this tournament to pass for the best part of a decade.
He believes a number of features of the competition are unique in the sport.
There will be two clinical trials taking place during the tournament, related to concussion trials and breast health. There is a commitment to sustainability with kits set to be made out of recyclable plastic or black hemp.
In another innovation, they are planning to do away with numbers on the back of shirts, and replace them with the flag of the player’s country of origin instead.
“I want the supporters to associate with the players’ names, and know where they are from,” Martyn said.
“I want them to go, ‘What flag is that? Bhutan? They play cricket in Bhutan?’ It is about recognising and respecting the player for their name, not as a number, which I have never understood.
“It is important people see the diversity that is there, and the quality that is there.”
Among the “brands” sponsoring the teams is the Barmy Army, the England cricket supporters club.
“From our point of view, hopefully we get the chance here in the UAE to attract the many thousands of expats who like sport to support the Barmy Army in this tournament, and build an association with us,” said Paul Burnham, the founder of the supporters club.
“Our database worldwide is nowhere near as big as it is in the UK. Ninety-five per cent of our social media followers come from the UK.
“We want to develop our brand. We love cricket. Our name is synonymous with cricket in a fun way, and I think people will be interested in what players are playing for the Barmy Army team.”