The Abu Dhabi T10 unveiled a big English name and an equally big team during the player draft in the capital city on Wednesday.
Former England coach Trevor Bayliss was announced as head coach of Team Abu Dhabi – the eighth team of the tournament.
Team Abu Dhabi will be run by some familiar names in the UAE. Owned by Abu Dhabi Sports Council, the team will be coached by Bayliss who recently ended his stint with the England team after guiding them to the World Cup title and will have star England all-rounder Moeen Ali as the icon player in the team.
Team Abu Dhabi got first pick in the player draft and snapped up Pakistan left-arm pace-bowler Mohammad Amir. Team Abu Dhabi thus started off with a stellar cast of coach Bayliss, Moeen, pacer Amir with UAE coach Dougie Brown the assistant coach.
Delhi Bulls are being led by England World Cup winning captain Eoin Morgan. Chris Lynn is the icon player for Maratha Arabians, who will be coached by former England coach Andy Flower.
Sohail Akhtar will captain Pakistan franchise Qalandars. Sri Lanka all-rounder Thisara Perera will lead the new Bangla Tigers while Australian all-rounder Shane Watson is the icon player for Deccan Gladiators.
Retired South Africa batsman Hashim Amla will lead the way for Karnataka Tuskers while Darren Sammy is the main man at defending champions Northern Warriors.
Franchises fought over some of the biggest names in world cricket. Nepal leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane was snapped up by newcomers Karnataka Tuskers while in-form Pakistan all-rounder Shoaib Malik went to Delhi Bulls.
Deccan Gladiators got veteran Windies all-rounder and their current limited overs captain Kieron Pollard. Hard-hitting Windies batsman Evin Lewis was taken up the Tuskers.
It was a particularly proud moment for T10 chairman Shaji Ul Mulk. Having hosted the previous two editions in Sharjah, the backing of Abu Dhabi entities was a shot in the arm.
"The fact that the government of Abu Dhabi has supported this event with a five-year agreement means it's already bigger," Shaji said on Wednesday. "There is greater credibility and greater responsibility that comes with it."
The growing size and stature of the league has filled Shaji with pride. "This year almost 500 players signed up for the player draft," he said. "The league is already much bigger than last year. It's all about consolidating the position and delivering a product of the highest quality."
Player availability is a perennial issue with any franchise cricket but Shaji feels the short time frame of the league – November 15-24 – means that players can squeeze matches in a cramped calendar.
"In any T20 league in the world, you need 20-30 days in the calendar, which is so cluttered. But that's an advantage for T10. Ten days is an affordable window in the calendar," Shaji said. "Next year, we hope to go up to 15 days. But still it's not like a T20 league."
Unfortunately, the T10 draft coincided with three UAE players getting suspended by the ICC for breach of its anti-corruption code.
Shaji said T10 league has a zero tolerance policy towards corruption.
"We have always had a zero tolerance policy when it comes to corruption. The whole monitoring of the tournament has been done by the ICC. We have outsourced anti-corruption and dope testing to the ICC. All key elements are outsourced to the ICC."
Shaji revealed that he is trying to rope in retired India all-rounder Yuvraj Singh. That will undoubtedly be the biggest draw for the tournament, if the league can pull it off.
"This season, we are limited by BCCI's policy of having only retired India players in leagues outside India. Yuvraj Singh is almost there. We hope to make an announcement soon. We are in the final stages of negotiations with him."