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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 28 January 2021

MCL owners ‘will see a return on their passion and investment’ despite overlap with PSL

The founder of the MCL hopes the tournament’s franchise owners will see a return on their investment.
Virender Sehwag will captain the Gemini Arabians in the UAE-based Masters Champions League, starting later this month. Eranga Jayawardena / AP Photo
Virender Sehwag will captain the Gemini Arabians in the UAE-based Masters Champions League, starting later this month. Eranga Jayawardena / AP Photo

DUBAI // The founder of the Masters Champions League hopes the tournament’s franchise owners will see a return on their investment, even though he acknowledged it is unclear how many people will turn up to watch.

Two high-profile new Twenty20 leagues will begin within a week of each other in the UAE, starting with the MCL at the Dubai International Stadium on January 28.

Seven days later, that tournament will decamp to Sharjah while Pakistan’s own version of an international T20 competition, the Pakistan Super League (PSL), moves in. Matches will overlap across the two cities for the following week.

When the MCL was first announced last summer, it had a 10-year plan to stage matches, involving the best and most famous retired international players, at stadia across the UAE.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), keen to get its own response to the Indian Premier League (IPL) off the ground after years in the planning, subsequently brought its influence to bear.

As a national governing body and ICC member, the PCB forced through an agreement to host its PSL in the UAE, which has always been regarded as the second home of the Pakistan team.

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The fact the MCL schedule was then squeezed means there are more double-headers than originally hoped for, and some early starts on working days.

However, the organisers believe it will still be a success, despite its proximity to a competition involving many current stars of the game, such as Shahid Afridi and Chris Gayle. Broadcast rights to the MCL in India had been bought by Sony Six, which also screens the IPL.

Zafar Shah, the MCL founder, refused to speculate how many fans will be at the ground when the competition debuts, but he is optimistic about its prospects.

“I am very pleased by the way the franchise owners have responded,” Shah said. “There is a lot of money at stake, millions of dollars that they could lose, but it is a business model. If you don’t invest money how are you going to make any?

“These players are world-class names. It is not just domestic cricket, where you are pouring money in and getting no return. I am hoping the team owners will see a return on their passion and investments.”

Shah was speaking at the launch of the Gemini Arabians, a UAE-run franchise owned by Nalin Khaitan, a 27-year-old Dubai-based businessman who himself plays regular A Division cricket domestically.

His franchise spent around US$650,000 (Dh2.4m) assembling a squad at auction last month.

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That figure is separate to the amount spent on acquiring the services of the three “icon players,” Virender Sehwag, Muttiah Muralitharan and Kumar Sangakkara, as well as other costs.

Khaitan said the driving force behind the outlay is passion for the game rather than profit.

“Investing in a tournament of this nature you have to have a long-term view,” Khaitan said.

“Those who are looking to make a short-term gain and a quick buck are in the wrong business.

“Passion drives the decision, no doubt. Of course we have to look at the commercial point of view. You can’t just be pumping in money, but we are looking at it from a long-term perspective. Passion overtakes the commercial side when cricket is involved.”

Sehwag was announced as the Arabians team captain and director at the launch at Skydive Dubai.

“It is a great opportunity for players like us to extend our careers once we have retired from international cricket and use the opportunity to show our talent,” Sehwag said.

“I’m sure people will want to come and watch. To be able to watch Saqlain [Mushtaq] bowling, or watch me batting, or watch other legends, it is very exciting.”

pradley@thenational.ae

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Published: January 9, 2016 04:00 AM

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