Two sides who are linked to Indian Premier League behemoths will contest the opening game of the ILT20, when Dubai Capitals play Abu Dhabi Knight Riders.
The sides, who are offshoots of the Delhi and Kolkata-based IPL franchises respectively, will meet on Friday, January 13, at Dubai International Stadium.
It will mark the start of the UAE’s first, home-owned T20 franchise league, which comprises six teams and 34 matches over the course of a month.
Three of the six teams are associated to IPL sides. One of the other sides is currently linked to an even larger sporting entity – although possibly might not be by the time the tournament starts.
The Desert Vipers are owned by Lancer Capital, whose other sporting interests include Manchester United. However, the Glazer family in recent weeks indicated their willingness to sell the Premier League football club.
That should provide no distraction to the Vipers. They have been keen to stress they are a separate entity to United.
They will be the last side to get their ILT20 life under way. They will be playing in the third match of the competition, against Sharjah Warriors on Sunday, January 15, in Dubai.
“A major positive of our start on the third day of the tournament is that we will get to see a match at our opening venue, and we will get to see our first opponents in action before we meet them,” Tom Moody, the Vipers director of cricket, said.
“So we will be able to gather some valuable information on the venue and the opposition.
“Our later start in comparison to the other sides translates to 10 matches in 24 days, but what that means is if we can get into a good rhythm, then we can build some decent momentum through that first phase.
“We’ve spent a long period planning and strategising for the Desert Vipers’ launch in the ILT20. Seeing these fixtures is another landmark on the road to the start of the tournament.”
Between the six teams, there will be 84 international players as well as 24 UAE-based ones.
Although each set of players had initially been due to be recruited via a draft system, each franchise has instead made their own arrangements with players.
The sides are currently in the process of adding UAE players to their squads.
At the conclusion of the competition, the national team are likely to head to Kathmandu for a Cricket World Cup League 2 tri-series also involving Nepal and Papua New Guinea.
The UAE also need to fit in another set of fixtures against those same teams, and will likely host that in Dubai on PNG’s behalf.
The CWCL2 carries with it three places at the final Qualifier for next year’s 50-over World Cup in India. The national team are placed fifth out of seven, so have much ground to make up on their rivals.