By Aakash Kumar
New Delhi, Oct 16 (IANS) The organisers of the Abu Dhabi T10 League are hoping that the Indian cricket board would allow more retired Indian players to participate in the fourth edition of the competition early next year, Shaji-ul-Mulk, founder and chairman of T10 Sports Management has said.
“There’s no doubt that participation of Indian players helped in increasing Indian viewership. So, we are hopeful that Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan will return for the upcoming season as well,” Mulk told IANS in an exclusive interview.
The fourth edition of the T10 league will be played at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium – one of the three IPL 2020 venues – from January 28 to February 6, 2021.
In the third edition played last year, former India all-rounder Yuvraj made his debut in the league. He played for Maratha Arabians while former India pacer Zaheer featured for the Delhi Bulls.
The likes of Pravin Tambe, S Badrinath, Munaf Patel have also played in the league in the previous seasons.
When asked if more Indian players could be seen in the tournament, Mulk said: “We are aware of the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) stand on participation of Indian players in foreign leagues and we respect that. Having said that, there is still time for the fourth edition to start and so, we are hopeful that it will allow more retired players to come and play in T10 league.”
Mulk is also impressed by the viewership numbers of the ongoing 13th edition of the Indian Premier League and is hoping the forthcoming edition of the Abu Dhabi T10 will also garner record viewership at a time when fans have can only watch live cricket action from their homes and not in the stadia amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The opening week of IPL 13 was watched by 269 million viewers, 11 million more per match compared to the last year.
“IPL, being the world’s biggest cricket property at the moment, has already shown that the viewership for cricket is there. Considering that, we are very hopeful that T10 league will also receive the same amount of love and support from the viewers,” Mulk said.
The likes of Eoin Morgan, Shane Watson, Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell and Dwayne Bravo, who are participating in the ongoing IPL, are part of the T10 league. And Mulk is expecting “positive inputs” from these players so that the level of cricket in the league improves further.
“Many of the international players in the IPL are also part of the T10 league. So, we are looking forward to having positive inputs from them,” he said.
In its effort to spearhead growth and development of the ten-over format cricket worldwide, the league recently appointed Haroon Lorgat, former CEO of the International Cricket Council (ICC), as director for strategy and development.
“Haroon Lorgat’s role is very specific. We want to take T10 cricket to global levels and along with Lorgat, who has worked with various cricket boards, including the ICC, we aim to take the format outside Abu Dhabi as well,” said Mulk while emphasising on the role which Lorgat would be performing.
The 2019 edition, which was won by Dwayne Bravo-led Maratha Arabians, saw an incredible 124,000 fans descend on Zayed Cricket Stadium across 10 days, a record audience for sports events in the UAE. And Mulk is hopeful that come January, the Covid-19 situation will improve and the tournament would be played in front of a packed stadium.
“There’s still three-four months for the tournament to start. I am hopeful that by January the situation will improve, the government will issue relaxations and thus fans would be allowed to enjoy the tournament in the stadium itself.”
Last year, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had revoked the ‘no objection certificate’ it granted to the players to participate in the tournament just before its commencement. However, Mulk is hopeful that this time around, the PCB will allow its players to participate in the league.
“As I have already stated, we welcome players from all countries to participate in the league, so we are hopeful of participation of Pakistan players as well,” he said.