The UAE can safely be called a prominent centre of cricket on the global scene.
For close to a decade, the country was the home base of the Pakistan national team after international cricket ceased in the South Asian nation due to violence.
High-profile tournaments like the Indian Premier League have also been held in the Emirates, either due to scheduling issues in 2014 or travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Then, franchise cricket started to take hold. The Pakistan Super League laid its foundations in the UAE before moving permanently back home. The country also saw the emergence of a brand new format - T10 - and the subsequent rise of the Abu Dhabi T10 tournament.
Now, the UAE will stage its very own high-profile T20 franchise tournament – International League T20 – which will be played from January 13 and will bring together the biggest names in T20 cricket.
Owners of IPL teams have invested heavily in the tournament, which is set to become the biggest in the game after the IPL, in terms of player salaries.
The ILT20 is not the only entity that will call the UAE home. The Afghanistan team recently entered into an agreement with the Emirates Cricket Board to play their 'home' games here for the next five years.
That means Afghanistan's veteran all-rounder Mohammad Nabi, who moved to Ajman in 2021 after the turmoil back home following last year's takeover by thew Taliban, will truly feel at home when he turns out for Sharjah Warriors during the ILT20.
"Yes, you can say I am home," Nabi told The National. "For two to three years, I have been based in UAE. I have been playing in Sharjah. My son also plays for Sharjah Cricket Academy. We know the conditions really well here."
Nabi recently quit as captain of the Afghanistan team after a disappointing T20 World Cup. He also went unsold in the IPL auction. The 37-year-old realises he will slowly have to move towards mentoring youngsters as he nears the end of his career.
"Even on national duty, I have always been working with youngsters. Whenever I see they need anything, I will go and discuss it with them. I try to guide them on cricket and non-cricket matters," Nabi said.
Nabi hopes that no matter what happens in the ILT20, his team puts up a fight every match.
"I would like my team to compete and not play a one-sided game. Whether win or lose, fans should get to enjoy the game."
Looking back at 2022, Nabi said that while the disappointment of a failed T20 World Cup campaign will remain, at least he got to play with his son. Earlier in the year, Nabi featured in the CBFS T20 tournament at Sharjah Cricket Stadium with his son Hassan Khan.
"At the World Cup or big stages, we did not achieve a lot. We tried our best. But we did not get many games with the full-member teams. We had to make some adjustments. But yes, I got to play with my son in Sharjah. I loved that," he added.