Organisers of the Abu Dhabi T10 are confident Yuvraj Singh will be playing when the new season gets underway in November – even if does come with a hefty price tag.
The Indian former World Cup winner retired from international cricket in June. That opened the door for him to feature in franchise league cricket abroad, starting with the Global T20 Canada, where he is currently playing.
The 37-year-old batsman might also feature in cricket's first professional 10-over league, when it is staged in the capital for the first time in November.
According to Shaji Ul Mulk, the chairman and founder of the T10 league, talks have taken place with Yuvraj, as well as his former India colleagues Ambati Rayudu and Irfan Pathan.
“We are very optimistic, and I think it is more about a number than willingness,” Ul Mulk said. “Yuvraj has a certain expectation, and we can only afford so much, let us put it that way.
"We are trying to bridge that gap, but the intention is very clear: he definitely wants to play. The same goes for other players who are retiring. There is an ongoing conversations, so we are pretty optimistic.”
Ul Mulk believes having the likes of Yuvraj, Rayudu, Pathan, and possibly even Harbhajan Singh, would have a big impact on growing the league’s popularity – particularly in India.
Indian players, such as Zaheer Khan, RP Singh, and Pravin Tambe, featured for the first time in the 2018 T10 League.
Viewing figures were up substantially as a result, according to Ul Mulk, who says that 3.3 million people on average tuned in to the broadcast of the matches in India in the second season, up from 1.4 in 2017.
He says that, while the team owners pay the salary of the players, the competition organisers “facilitate the deal”.
“Yuvraj or Ambati Rayudu, for example, will agree on a number, we will float that number to the team owners, then they have the choice,” Ul Muk said.
“Usually, more than one team owner wants to have a name like Yuvraj, so then it goes to the draft, and it is up to the pick as to who gets him.”
The league, which is moving to the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi having had its first two seasons in Sharjah, will be played from November 15 to 24.
That is two weeks later than the date that had originally been announced for the event, and means the final will be the weekend before the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The revised dates have some noteworthy effects. Firstly, it means Eoin Morgan, England’s World Cup winning captain, will be available to play.
Morgan, who was the captain of the inaugural champions, Kerala Kings, in 2017, has yet to announce whether he intends to carry on playing international cricket after leading England to the World Cup last month.
If he does opt to play on, he could lead the England team in a five-match T20 series in New Zealand from November 1 to 10, before joining the T10 event.
Ul Mulk said Morgan, as well as the likes of Shahid Afridi, Daren Sammy – who was the winning captain last year – and Andre Russell have all confirmed their intention to return.
Also, the new dates mean the UAE’s leading players will also be able to play now. The original dates had clashed with the World Cup T20 Qualifier, which takes place in the UAE from October 11 to November 3.
In the past two seasons, two places in each of the eight T10 squads had been reserved for UAE players, with at least one guaranteed in the starting XI.
“I am really happy with how supportive the Abu Dhabi government was with shifting the dates of this from October to November at our request,” Mubashir Usmani, the general secretary of the Emirates Cricket Board, said.
“Both the tournaments will get their own exposure. That is what we wanted, and both parties accepted that and luckily there is no confusion.”