ILT20: Pakistan stars set to feature in second season of competition in the UAE

Organisers say 20-over tournament will be boosted by PCB’s decision to issue NOCs to their players

Pakistan star players are expected to feature in the second season of the DP World International League T20 tournament. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Organisers of the DP World International League T20 say the tournament will be boosted by the involvement of Pakistan players in the second season of the competition.

The country’s players were prevented from playing when the UAE’s new franchise league had its inaugural season at the start of this year.

However, the Pakistan Cricket Board is set to permit its players to be involved when the competition returns in January and February next year.

“It is big news for the ILT20 that the PCB will be issuing [no objection certificates] to its players,” Subhan Ahmed, the chief operating officer of the ILT20, told The National.

“We are hopeful of seeing top quality Pakistani players featuring in ILT20 in season two. It will give a boost to the competition, and we are looking forward to it.”

Which Pakistan players feature is yet to be confirmed. The competition concludes just before the start of the country’s own franchise competition, the Pakistan Super League.

It also overlaps with competitions like the Big Bash League in Australia, the Bangladesh Premier League, and the new South African T20 event.

Players like Haris Rauf, Shadab Khan and Imad Wasim have been regulars in Australia’s Big Bash League in the past.

However, the stars of Pakistan cricket could be tempted to switch to the UAE competition given the enviable salaries on offer.

“We have had discussions with the PCB about the availability and timings,” Subhan said.

“So long as there are no clashes in terms of their commitments, the players will be made available.

“We do understand that, because of the crowded calendar, there is always difficulties finding an exclusive window where everyone is available.

“But we are trying to find slots where the Pakistani players will be available to play in ILT20.”

The inclusion of star players from Pakistan could help attract spectators to the stadiums. Although the first season of ILT20 was well received by the players involved, and over 20,000 saw Gulf Giants beat Desert Vipers in the final, attendances were generally low for most matches.

Expatriate supporters of Pakistan previously had a surfeit of chances to see their compatriots playing on the fields of the UAE.

The national team played almost all of their home fixtures in the country for a decade after an attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009 meant touring sides opted out of travelling there over security concerns. The early seasons of the PSL were also staged in the Emirates.

Since international cricket has returned to Pakistan, visits to the UAE have been fewer. They appeared at the World T20 in 2021, then the Asia Cup the following year, and played a bilateral series against Afghanistan in March of this year.

Subhan believes the chance to see Pakistan’s stars in the flesh again will bring supporters back to the stadiums.

“There is a big subcontinental expat population here, especially from India and Pakistan,” he said.

“People will be looking forward to seeing their heroes in action at our grounds in our event, so we are looking forward to their participation.”

Updated: August 02, 2023, 9:46 AM