The Abu Dhabi T10 family is growing and it is attracting suitors from half way across the globe.
This year's edition will see the addition of two teams to the roster — New York Strikers and Morrisville SAMP Army.
SAMP Army are an established cricket franchise in the US. They take part in competitive matches across America and are closely associated with USA Cricket, with a squad including national team players such as captain Monank Patel, Aaron Jones, and former skipper Saurabh Netravalkar in their team.
Team owner Ritesh Patel has deep roots in US cricket; he also owns an indoor cricket and multi-sport complex. Helping him in his latest venture in UAE is CEO Madhukar Shree, who brings with him vast experience of handling the commercial and development side of franchise cricket in various tournament across the world, including the Indian Premier League (IPL).
The franchise announced star South African cricketer David Miller as their marquee player for this season, which will take place at the Zayed Cricket Stadium from November 23 to December 4. Miller is the flavour of the season in T20 cricket, smashing 32 off 19 balls during the chase to help Gujarat Titans defeat Rajasthan Royals in the IPL final. He is doing a similar job for Barbados Royals in the Caribbean Premier League.
Other big names such as South African quick Anrich Nortje, West Indies batsman Shimron Hetmyer and England all-rounder Moeen Ali have been included. That has laid the foundation for a strong unit.
"The whole plan is to put in our best not just in terms of players, but also support staff, marketing, social media, management, events, activation. We are here to stay," CEO Shree told The National.
"We are trying to get a few big names. If you look at our four signings, a couple of them were not part of T10 before but now are."
Abu Dhabi T10 team of the tournament for 2021
Since the Indian connection with franchise cricket is growing stronger, especially ahead of the launch of the International League T20 in UAE next year that boasts IPL heavyweights Reliance Industries and Knight Riders, all eyes will be on whether SAMP Army can bag any top Indian talent.
"Indian players are always on our mind, without a question," owner Patel said. "We have all strategies in mind. But at the end of the day, it depends on the combination and what we need. Indian players, yes absolutely, but we also want the best from across the globe."
The best is what will be needed. Abu Dhabi T10 is, after all, growing at a rapid pace. Last season, the league's total economic impact was valued at $621.2 million, while the competition reached 342 million television and over-the-top (OTT) digital viewers.
According to organisers, Abu Dhabi T10's sponsorship value has risen by a staggering 81 per cent to $279.3 million. That should provide SAMP Army multiple avenues to purse financial success along with wins on the field.
"The revenue stream for us would be the central pool which will form a good chunk of money from broadcasters and central sponsors. Apart from that, we are looking at franchise sponsors, with a market in UAE, India and US. We have a total of nine to 10 spots on the jersey. We will try and maximise that," Shree, who has previously worked as a consultant for IPL side Punjab Kings, said.
"In terms of social media, we will enjoy following from India, UAE and USA. It’s just the first year. We will do a few activations and events, do things off season. We will club our sponsors with the tournaments we play in the US over the season. We will have something or the other going on throughout the year."
The 2022 edition of the T10 competition will be the fourth since it moved from Sharjah to the capital.