Cricket's galacticos gear up for the perfect 10

Chris Gayle will play for Team Abu Dhabi at the T10. (Twitter)
Chris Gayle will play for Team Abu Dhabi at the T10. (Twitter)

Dubai - This will be the fourth edition of the tournament and the second to be held in the UAE capital

By James Jose

Published: Thu 28 Jan 2021, 12:03 AM

The Indian Premier League (IPL), the most popular T20 franchise league enthralled each and every cricket fan at the fag end of last year. For close to two months, it provided rich entertainment and respite from the Covid-19 pandemic. And the fact that it was held here in the UAE made it a more one on one experience.

But for all intents and purposes, it was India’s gig. A little over two months later, the UAE and Abu Dhabi braces for its own baby — the Abu Dhabi T10 League — a competition which continues to resonate around the cricketing world and a format that could possibly pave the return of the sport into the Olympic movement.

What started as a six-team competition at one ground — the iconic and historic Sharjah Cricket Stadium — packed into and adrenaline-filled four days, has grown bigger and better with each passing edition.

And what has helped this unique tournament grow rapidly is the backing from the Government of Abu Dhabi, which has signed a five-year contract as part of its push towards sports tourism.

This will be the fourth edition of the tournament and the second to be held in the UAE capital and it wouldn’t be far off the mark to say this could best the previous three instalments.

Following an exciting Players’ Draft held last December, the eight franchises are well stacked and it would be tough to pick a winner.

The rosters of all the teams oozes quality with the likes of former Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik, who is the captain of the defending champions Maratha Arabians, his teammate Mohammad Hafeez, West Indian Kieron Pollard, the skipper of the Deccan Gladiators, and his compatriot Sunil Narine, another West Indian Dwayne Bravo, the captain and icon player of the Delhi Bulls, Nicholas Pooran, Englishmen Dawid Malan and the exciting youngster Tom Banton, West Indian Andre Russell, England’s Ravi Bopara and Chris Jordan, Pakistan pace ace Mohammad Amir, South Africans Chris Morris and Imran Tahir, India’s Pravin Tambe, Sri Lanka’s Isuru Udana, Afghanistan’s Mohammad Nabi, amongst many others.

But adding more heft to the tournament that will be played over the course of 10 days at the Zayed Cricket Stadium is none other than the ‘Universe Boss’ Chris Gayle.

Gayle needs no introductions, and his credentials are all too well known and having set the stage alight at various T20 franchise leagues around the planet, the towering Jamaica journeyman’s return following a gap of two seasons, should push this format to heights never seen before. There can be no bigger draw than witnessing the man go for broke from ball one.

“First of all, I want to say that it’s good to be back. I’ve missed the past two seasons, so it’s good to be back within T10,” said Gayle, who will turn out for Team Abu Dhabi.

Gayle had previously featured in the 2018 edition for the Kerala Knights.

The 41-year-old, who played for the Kings XI Punjab in the IPL, also felt strongly about the format inclusion at the Olympics. There is a likelihood that the sport could feature at the 2028 event in Los Angeles. The last and only time cricket was part of the Olympics was in 121 years ago in 1900 in Paris, France with only Great Britain and the hosts participating.

“I would absolutely love to see T10 within the Olympics. It would be something huge for the sport from a general point of view. I also think T10 can be (held) within the United States also since it’s a big platform,” felt Gayle.

“The organisers of the Abu Dhabi T10 League have (built) something fantastic here, so we should now look to spread it and we can get more guys involved and more countries involved within T10 for sure,” he added.

And he had the last word on the format. “The shorter the format, the more exciting the game becomes. Watch out Abu Dhabi — a Gayle storm is coming!” Gayle had sent out a warning, in the build-up to the competition, last month.

Indeed, it is the calm before the storm!

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