Gemini Arabians stars (from left) Jacques Rudolph, Richard Levi, Virender Sehwag, Saqlain Mushtaq, Saqib Ali and Graham Onions ready to face Libra Legends in the opening match today.
Dubai - First-of-its-kind tournament for retired internationals kicks off in Dubai
"I'm a fan, who isn't?" roars Indian ODI captain MS Dhoni, seated amongst kids in a stadium, fist-pumping and all.
Dhoni is the ambassador and the build up to the first ever Masters Champions League, a first-of-its-kind tournament for retired internationals and legends of cricket, has been nothing short of glamorous. With a roll call that boasts of the great Brian Charles Lara, Adam Gilchrist, Virender Sehwag, Saurav Ganguly, Brett Lee, Jacques Kallis, Graeme Smith, Daniel Vettori, Brad Hogg, Andrew Symonds, Kumar Sangakkara, Jonty Rhodes, Muttiah Muralitharan, Mahela Jayawardene, Shane Bond, Saqlain Mushtaq, Mushtaq Ahmed, Paul Collingwood, Michael Vaughan, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Heath Streak, Scott Styris, Herschelle Gibbs and many others from around the world, the MCL has managed to pull off a coup.
Fans who watched them play during their heydays as well as the younger fans who haven't will be relishing at the prospect of seeing such a galaxy of stars doing it all over again, on UAE shores. The only thing, perhaps, that is open to question is whether it can live up to its billing and go the distance. It is indeed a step into the unknown as the MCL takes its first baby steps over a 10-year period. Also, the fact that the MCL will be jostling for eyeballs with the inaugural edition of the Pakistan Super League, also happening at the same venues - Dubai and Sharjah - and almost around the same dates, makes it an intriguing one. Perhaps, it could have held its own had it been scheduled on a different date.
Nonetheless, it is a unique and novel idea and it remains to be seen if it is an ideal 'retirement home.'
First up, after what is expected to be a colourful opening ceremony, which the organisers termed as a "surprise," "not a normal one" and "completely different," the Libra Legends will square off against the Gemini Arabians at the 'Ring of Fire' that is the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Thursday night.
Gemini Arabians' captain Virender Sehwag had talked up a battle against his former India captain Saurav Ganguly in the lead up to the competition but if that really happens, looks bleak and remains to be seen. Ganguly, captain of the Libra Legends was conspicuous by his absence during the team's official presser on Tuesday, leading to a plethora of rumours that he had pulled out of the tournament due to a back injury or maybe conflict of interest.
But the Legends' media manager Ankit Dedhia insisted that 'Dada' will arrive on Thursday. "He will coming tomorrow. There is no reason for the delay," he told the Khaleej Times on Wednesday.
If the news is indeed true that Ganguly won't play, South African batting mainstay Jacques Kallis will handle the reins.
The opening ceremony is at 6pm with the first ball set to be bowled at 7:30pm.