DUBAI: The International League T20 promises to be a high-octane competition with some of the greatest cricketing superstars on the planet such as Andre Russell, Shimron Hetmyer, Moeen Ali and Wanindu Hasaranga set to make their way to the United Arab Emirates to kick-off the League in January 2023. However, this competition is not only about the established players, but also about budding and established cricketers in the UAE.
With an exceptionally deep talent pool of Under-19 and men’s players from across the Emirates on offer, the League’s six ILT20 franchises – Abu Dhabi Knight Riders, Desert Vipers, Dubai Capitals, Gulf Giants, MI Emirates and Sharjah Warriors – will be aiming to utilize the tournament to grow the home talent in the UAE and provide them with an opportunity to shine alongside the biggest of stars.
Having a vested interest in his UAE-charges, as well as for the legacy of the League, Robin Singh, Director of Cricket and Head Coach, Emirates Cricket, was quoted as saying as per a release from ILT20, “We have some outstanding talent within our reach, as well as talent has not yet been uncovered, so we believe we are walking the talk by providing our UAE-based-players, who may otherwise not get the chance to play in other leagues or fit into a reserve category, with an incomparable experience to train and play with some of the best cricket-names and entities in today’s game. This is their time and we are extremely proud and grateful to the franchise-owners, and their management teams for their foresight and support of this inclusion.”
Now that the teams have fulfilled their International-players’ roster, their attention turns to fulfilling their UAE-players’ commitments. As with any selection process for any team, in any sport, across the world, the team principal will select the best from the talent that is on offer.
The League has confirmed all UAE-based centrally-contracted players, those who have shown their talent, as well as players who stand on the UAE-domestic-scene perimeter, will be available for selection and contract, and, with the mechanics of the selection process soon to be announced, the Franchises will be signing a minimum of four UAE-domiciled players within their team, where at least two 2 of these players will take the field in the starting XI of each match.
In the search for UAE talent, Franchise team, the Desert Vipers, conducted trials for UAE players in October in the Gulf nation. Viper’s Director of Cricket and former Australian all-rounder Tom Moody had a chat with the players before the players showcased their skills to find a place in the Vipers team.
Speaking about the trials, Tom Moody said, “The thought behind the trial, is giving us an opportunity to have a look at players who are outside the immediate spotlight, in the T20 World Cup, as you have many players outside who would warrant a place in that squad. We are also looking at the emerging players, the U-19 players. We have to pick four UAE players in the Vipers squad and two will be in our playing eleven, so it is important we get that selection right.”
Sanchit Sharma, one hopeful who, as Singh stated ‘stands on the UAE-domestic-scene perimeter’, and who made his debut for UAE last year, attended the trials for Desert Vipers.
When asked about his experience, the 21-year-old said, “This was a great opportunity to come and express ourselves along with well-regarded coaches like Tom Moody, and James Foster. (This is) a once on a lifetime opportunity, especially since this is the first season of this tournament. Tom Moody is one of my favourite coaches and I hope to get the opportunity to be on this team.”
ILT20’s other franchises have plans firmly in place and will soon follow suit and host trials for the (UAE-based) players in the lead up to the ILT20, which will provide unequaled opportunities to the strong cricketing talent based in the UAE. Franchise team, Dubai Capitals have started their first-round of scouting talent from the vast UAE cricketing pool with registrations for their on-ground trials closing today, Tuesday November 8.
The ILT20 franchises also keenly followed the start of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 which saw UAE compete in Group A of Round One, where their scouts were focused on identifying UAE players who could bolster their teams for the first season of the competition.
UAE triumphed in their final match, over Namibia, of their three pool games in ICC’s marquee T20 tournament, and each match proved highly entertaining and highlighted a number of elite-level player performances which no doubt caught the attention of the Franchises. The most notable performance coming from 22-year-old leg-spinner, Karthik Meiyappan who joined an elite group claiming both his, and the tournament’s first hat-trick, dismissing Sri Lankan trio, and ILT20 League signings, of Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Charith Asalanka and Dasun Shanaka.
While Meiyappan has had a taste of franchise league through his experiences, in part, as training support, he is ready to step onto his adopted-home-town stage alongside some of the best names in the sport today.
“Representing your country is a great honour, and I am extremely proud to have been given the opportunity to (not only) fulfil this dream but to do so alongside such a talented group (of players). While it was not on my mind, during the World Cup, to be noticed by any franchise teams, it is something that I do aspire to in my cricketing journey. If this is presented to me, then I look forward to and embrace the opportunity (of being considered) and if selected I will enjoy playing in the League, alongside some incredible players, in the place I call home,” said Meiyappan.
ILT20’s UAE players’ registration portal, opened last week where an astonishing number of interested UAE-based players have already expressed interest to compete in the League. With the playing and selection following strict guidelines, applied by both Emirates Cricket and the ICC, and with only 24-coveted places available, the intent to impress and catch the eye of the Franchise scouts is extremely fierce.
Speaking about the ILT20, and UAE’s emergence as a prominent cricketing destination, former Indian cricketer Irfan Pathan said, “Congratulations to UAE for their own league and I hope that this league prospers and a lot of (UAE) youngsters get opportunities. The weather is good and the ground facilities are great. UAE is certainly one of the most popular destinations for cricket.”
Making its debut in January 2023, the inaugural ILT20, which has received multi-year ICC approval, will be played in a 34-match format across the UAE’s exemplary, world-class Cricket facilities in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. Cricket fans across the world can catch the LIVE telecast of this exciting cricket league on ZEE’s channels and digital platform.
Franchise teams, comprising 84 International and 24 UAE-based players, include Abu Dhabi Knight Riders (Kolkata Knight Riders), Desert Vipers (Lancer Capital), Dubai Capitals (GMR), Gulf Giants (Adani Sportsline), MI Emirates (Reliance Industries), and Sharjah Warriors (Capri Global). (ANI)