Franchise cricket's most diverse entity - the Knight Riders Group - is all set to enter UAE cricket after it acquired the rights to own and operate the Abu Dhabi franchise in the UAE’s flagship T20 league.
Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan heads the Knight Riders Group, along with actor Juhi Chawla and her husband Jay Mehta. The group owns successful franchises like the Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League and the Trinbago Knight Riders in the Caribbean Premier League. Recently, the group made a significant investment in Major League Cricket (MLC) in the USA and also plan to build a world-class cricket stadium in Los Angeles.
Now, they are set to enter the UAE market through their latest franchise - the Abu Dhabi Knight Riders.
UAE’s T20 League chairman Khalid Al Zarooni said: “The commitment to grow the T20 format and the expertise gathered by the Knight Riders Group, through their involvement in franchise cricket across the world, is undisputed. We are exceptionally pleased with their foresight to join forces with the UAE’s T20 League and firmly believe it will elevate the reputation, and professionalism of the league throughout the cricket community.”
Commenting on the long-term agreement, Shah Rukh Khan said: "For several years now, we have been expanding the Knight Riders brand globally and closely watching the potential for T20 cricket in the UAE. We are excited about becoming part of UAE’s T20 League, which no doubt will become hugely successful."
Venky Mysore, CEO of KKR and Red Chillies Entertainment, added: "We feel fortunate to have been consistently recognised as a global brand in T20 cricket. As T20 cricket expands around the world, we are flattered by the regular invitations to play a major role in growing the sport across the world. We have had a keen interest in the developments in the UAE and our expansion is consistent with our long-term strategy”.
The UAE T20 League is expected to be launched early next year. Among the other industry leaders who have acquired franchises in the league are Indian conglomerates Adani Group and Reliance Industries - who run the Mumbai Indians franchise - and Lancer Capital, whose chairman is Avram Glazer, the co-chairman of Manchester United and owner of NFL franchise Tampa Bay Buccaneers.