LONDON: Abu Dhabi is set to become the new home of T10 cricket for the next five years, starting from this October.
The UAE-based league has been based in Sharjah for its first two editions, attracting big crowds and big-name players. England white-ball captain Eoin Morgan, West Indies all-time great Chris Gayle and Pakistan icon Shahid Afridi have all taken part in the newest — and shortest — form of the game over the past two years at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
That old venue is famous for holding the record number of ODIs, but the UAE capital has moved in and run out its neighbor to become T10’s new home.
For Shajji Ul-Mulk, the league’s chairman, the move could help take the format to the next level.
“We are very pleased to be moving to Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium, as we take one of the world’s most exciting sporting cities by storm,” Ul-Mulk said.
“The third season of T10 cricket will give over 100,000 fans the chance to see some of the biggest names in cricket battle it out on the pitch over 90 fast minutes of action.”
Abu Dhabi, while not having the rich cricketing history of its UAE northern neighbor, has hosted some Test matches, ODIs and T20s, but it is hoped that hosting the T10 league will further establish it in the minds of cricket fans as a global venue.
Matt Boucher, the acting CEO of Abu Dhabi Cricket, said: “This move to Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium represents a big next step in the growth of Abu Dhabi’s cricketing ecosystem, by giving fans access to a combined sports and entertainment offering through hosting all forms of the game.
“Whether it’s international Test matches or the now shortest form of cricket the game has to offer, we are continuing to be the home of the sport in the UAE.”
The T10 format — in which both sides have 10 overs to score as many runs as possible — was introduced in the UAE two years ago. In its short lifespan so far, it has already made a name for itself and has designs on going global.
Ul-Mulk has grand plans to export cricket’s latest white-ball phenomenon far and wide.
“(Cricket) boards are coming to us and it’s all about how we fit in commercially. We will probably have one more T10 in 2019; that’s our ambition,” he said last November.
“We are talking to a few boards, but it depends on how it goes. One thing is very clear: We only want to work with boards.”
Ul-Mulk did not reveal which boards he is in direct talks with, but did hint at the format having a possible future not only in traditional cricket heartlands such as England and South Africa, but also the US.
“The US market is great, the UK market is excellent for cricket, and South Africa, too, for that matter,” he said.
“With T10 the way it is, with 90 minutes (of) cricket, (it) actually opens up new markets that cricket doesn’t have now.
“For us, the US is one of those big markets where we feel that we can reconnect cricket there. Cricket can have a strong place in the US, which it doesn’t have at the moment.”