The UAE T20x continues to attract some of the world's best player in the game's shortest format, with David Miller and Andre Russell being roped into the competition.
Miller, the hard-hitting South Africa batsman, and Russell, the West Indies bowling all-rounder, have signed up as 'icon players' for the inaugural season of the nearly month-long tournament, which starts on December 19.
Miller and Russell will join former Proteas captain AB de Villiers, who last month agreed to become ambassador of the tournament, which will be held in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah under the auspices of the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB).
Miller, who has represented South Africa in 109 one-day internationals and 61 T20s in a career spanning eight years, is determined to do his bit for the growth of the game across the Middle East.
“I grew up in a country that is crazy about cricket, and it meant there were a lot of opportunities to learn and develop as a player," said the middle-order batsman, who hopes emerging players from both Test and Associate member nations will benefit from such opportunities as the UAE T20x.
Russell, who has played one Test, 52 ODIs and 47 T20s for the Windies, is optimistic the tournament will succeed given that it already has a foundation in place, including "amazing facilities in a progressive country and passionate fans who come from all over the world".
Indeed, the UAE's importance as a sought-after cricket hub for high-profile international teams over the past nearly 40 years is predicated on such advantages as location and demographics.
The country has served as the Pakistan cricket team’s home away from home for much of the past decade. The Indian Premier League (IPL) and the Pakistan Super League have been held here, too.
Throw in the fact that the UAE national team – made up primarily of players from the subcontinent, including some homegrown ones – performed well at ICC tournaments lately, and it makes sense for the ECB to use this base upon which to build something that will hopefully last long and pay dividends.
The tournament will feature five franchise teams, with 22 matches scheduled to be played over 24 days. Each franchise will comprise a squad of 16, including six international stars, four emerging and junior players, three Associate member team players, and three UAE national team players.
Last week, organisers announced a host of coaches and former players set to take on non-playing roles.
Former India internationals VVS Laxman, Robin Singh, Venkatesh Prasad and Sanjay Bangar have all signed up to lend their expertise to the franchises, as has AR Srikkanth, who is the performance and strategic analyst for IPL side Kolkata Knight Riders.
From Pakistan, Shoaib Akhtar, Saqlain Mushtaq, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Saeed Ajmal, Misbah-ul-Haq and Waqar Younis have also confirmed their involvement, while former Sri Lanka fast bowler Chaminda Vaas has put himself forward for selection as a bowling coach when the auction and draft take place later this year.