Pakistan cricket aiming to launch IPL-like Twenty20 league to be played in the UAE

The Pakistan Cricket Board has announced its plans to organise its first professional franchise-based Twenty20 competition, to be played in the UAE next year.

Pakistan's Shahid Afridi shown with Northamptonshire, where he plays Twenty20 cricket in England. Gareth Copley / Getty Images
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ABU DHABI // Pakistan’s on-again, off-again plans to launch its franchise-based Twenty20 league are on again and the UAE will be its host.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) announced yesterday that it will go ahead with a five-franchise league next year after having had similar intentions cancelled twice before.

There appears renewed intent behind the plans this time.

In April the board hired Repucom, a leading global sports consultancy, to advise it on how best to organise such a league, one the PCB sees as vital to its financial future.

Among its suggestions – and one the board has advocated – was to hold the first season in the UAE, so that it can attract the world’s top players.

Though Zimbabwe became the first Test side to tour Pakistan in six years last month, continuing concerns about the security situation in the country would likely deter most foreign players from playing in the league. Pakistan have played all their home assignments in the UAE since 2009 and the league will add to what is already a hectic season of international cricket.

So much so that finding the right time for it could be difficult. Already England are to visit this winter for a full tour against Pakistan, with a possibility that India arrive for a full series in the second half of the winter.

That would be the biggest series staged in the UAE.

That leaves February next year as the earliest the PCB could launch the league. That, though, could clash with the Masters Champions League (MCL), a private Twenty20 league for retired international stars, that was announced recently.

The MCL is a two-week tournament, that is to start next February and, with Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) approval, will be played in the country’s three international venues in Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

It is believed the dates of the MCL clash directly with the PCB’s schedule for its league in the UAE. “We look forward to discussing [the league] with them,” said David East, chief executive of the ECB.

PCB officials were in the UAE this month to hold discussions about the league. They could be in the UAE again this week for talks with the ECB.

Unlike the previous two attempts at launching the league, the PCB this time seems clear on the ownership structure.

Instead of outsourcing the running of the entire league – the models the defunct Sri Lanka Premier League and Bangladesh Premier League were based on – the PCB will run the league.

The board will appoint “a leading professional of international repute” to be the league head, who will then report to the board’s executive committee.

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