Pro Bash, the first domestic franchise competition in Abu Dhabi, is set to offer hope for cricketers who want to ply their trade in top-flight competitions.
The 25-over tournament, sanctioned by the Emirates Cricket Board, has drawn seven teams in an Indian Premier League-style format at the Al Ain Cricket Club, starting on Thursday.
“The concept here is to provide a strong platform for cricketers to compete at a good level,” Shadab Ahamed, the event director of organisers Indopak Sports, said.
“We got this idea to start the Pro Bash because many cricketers don’t get to play on turf wickets. The majority of the matches are confined to low-level competitions and on cement wickets.
“There are turf wicket facilities but that comes at a price. It is beyond the means of those aspiring to play for the UAE national team. One of our objectives is to provide them with the opportunity to develop their cricket.”
Division One cricket in the country has come to a halt, barring the Sharjah Cricket Council’s Bukhatir League; the oldest premier tournament and now the only competition in the 50-over format.
The domestic game suffered a severe blow when all leading team owners in the country decided to disband their squads in 2015, and the premier tournaments gradually perished over the next two years.
So, when Ahamed and his team floated the idea of the Pro Bash to prospective franchise owners and sponsors, the proposal was welcomed.
“We assembled franchise owners to sign up players for their teams in three different categories – diamond, platinum and gold – and the remaining members free to sign,” Ahamed said.
“The contracted players are paid. We have also restricted teams to sign up only one player from the other emirate so as to provide the Abu Dhabi players with more playing opportunities.”
Ahamed believes the Pro Bash is already on a good platform.
“With that in mind, we are already looking ahead,” he said. “We want to have two UAE national team players in every team and an under 19 player in the playing 11 for the next edition.
“I think the way they have gone about in generating franchise owners and the player response we have had, the future of the Pro Bash looks bright.”
For the inaugural Pro Bash, UAE international Mohammed Usman is named as Abu Dhabi Dragons' marquee signing and the UAE U19 international Osama Hassan as the emerging player for Pakhtoon Warriors.
“We conducted four other competitions before we arrived with the idea of staging the Pro Bash,” Ahamed said of their experience in running tournaments.
“We have deviated from the now established Twenty20 format to the 25 over-a-side to provide the players more playing time.
“It’s an older concept here in the UAE but gives a slightly longer period of play for the players. And we have tied up with Al Ain Cricket Club in using their brand new cricket facilities.”