Emirates Cricket Board: UAE Twenty20 League can happen by 2020

Plans in place to make tournament happen after collapse of UAE T20x in 2018

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - January 31, 2019: UAE's captain Mohammad Naveed directs his field in the the match between the UAE and Nepal in an international T20 series. Thursday, January 31st, 2019 at ICC, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak/The National
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The Emirates Cricket Board are positive they can deliver a new Twenty20 league of their own by next year, and say they want it to be one of the top three leagues in the world.

Plans for a new 20-over franchise competition owned and run in the Emirates appeared to have collapsed last year when a high-profile event to be known as UAE T20x was aborted.

A number of global star names were already recruited for that competition, such as Eoin Morgan, Shahid Afridi, Andre Russell and Kumar Sangakkara, with AB de Villiers as its non-playing ambassador.

Steve Smith, while on his year-long suspension from international cricket, even entered his name in the draft, which was due to carry with it contracts of up to Dh1 million.

Even while those contracted players were busy promoting that event, the ECB opted to cancel plans for it before the draft took place, after only two of five franchises were sold.

Despite that experience, the ECB say they remain committed to adding a league of their own to the calendar of T20 events around the world, as well as the Abu Dhabi T10.

The 10-over event is gearing up for its third season, which will take place in November, with all matches taking place in Abu Dhabi for the next five years.

That competition carries with it a stipulation that two players in each of the eight squads must be UAE-based.

Mubashir Usmani, the general secretary of the ECB, says the game’s governing body want to create a similar platform for home-based players in the 20-over format, too.

“As an Emirates Cricket Board, we do want to give UAE cricketers some kind of opportunity to come and play in a format that is right now accepted by ICC in their calendar,” Usmani said.

“We are in a developing stage. We are talking to concerned parties and investors who are interested in creating such a league in UAE. We are working on it, and we are hopeful to launch it by next year.”

Although Abu Dhabi T10 is sanctioned and supported by the ECB, the governing body believe there is also space in the landscape for another event of their own.

“T10 is a fast-paced format, and apart from this we want to give our players something that is part of the ICC calendar,” Usmani said.

“With T20 being an approved ICC format, we will definitely have a window for this somewhere.

“If you see, all the leagues across the world right now, we have done our homework on them. We definitely want to be along the top three leagues.

“We have identified what are our limitations, and where we can gain an advantage, and we are working towards it.”

Access to another new competition involving international star name players would be a boon for UAE players, who are just starting to see the effects of increased opportunities at franchise competitions.

Seven national team players went to the ongoing Global T20 Canada tournament, with five of them returning to play in the four-match T20 international series against Netherlands, which the UAE won.

The national team’s players can also now look forward to featuring in the T10 league again, after a rescheduling of the dates meant it no longer clashed with the T20 World Cup Qualifier, which was initially the case.

But Mohammed Naveed, the UAE captain, says his players all have the same goal for this year – namely to qualify for next year’s T20 World Cup.

“I’m very excited that we have the chance to play in the T10 League again,” Naveed said.

“For any UAE player to be playing in a big league is good for the UAE team. Look at how [Rohan Mustafa and Zahoor Khan] have done here [succeeding in Netherlands after playing in Canada].

“Our coaches work very hard, especially Dougie [Brown]. We recently lost two series against Nepal and Zimbabwe, but our morale was not down.

“Dougie gave us confidence and told us we are all skilful players, now look at the results. Now we have one goal: to qualify for the World Cup.”