Exclusive: Why Dubai makes ILT20 star Nicholas Pooran nostalgic

Nicholas Pooran will lead MI Emirates at the ILT20, UAE's IPL-style franchise league which begins on Friday

by

Rituraj Borkakoty

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Nicholas Pooran (left), Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine, Colin Munro, Sam Billings and ILT20 brand ambassador Shoaib Akhtar pose with the trophy at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. — Supplied photo
Nicholas Pooran (left), Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine, Colin Munro, Sam Billings and ILT20 brand ambassador Shoaib Akhtar pose with the trophy at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. — Supplied photo

Published: Fri 19 Jan 2024, 12:50 AM

Long after doing the ILT20 trophy photoshoot with Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine, Colin Munro and Sam Billings, Nicholas Pooran could not help but steal a glance at the 22-yard strip from the Royal Box at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.

This majestic arena, one of the three world-class venues for the 2024 ILT20 (January 19-February 17), still holds a special place in Pooran’s heart.

Not just Dubai stadium, Pooran carries a piece of UAE in his heart everywhere he goes for a game of cricket as a professional player.

From his days as an under-19 cricketer to causing mayhem with the bat at the 2018 T10 tournament in Sharjah, Pooran has some beautiful memories of this country.

Now the explosive West Indies left-hander will hope to draw inspiration from his past heroics here when he leads MI Emirates at the ILT20, UAE’s IPL-style franchise league.

“The UAE feels like home now, I have played so much cricket here,” Pooran told the Khaleej Times on Thursday.

“I remember my under-19 days, I played right here at this stadium in Dubai, I scored my first under-19 World Cup hundred (143) here against Australia. After that, I felt like coming here to the UAE every year. It’s always a good feeling to come here and play cricket.”

Now one of the world’s most feared batsmen, Pooran says the ILT20 offers young cricketers from the UAE a great opportunity to raise their game.

“The (Abu Dhabi) T10, the ILT20, these tournaments are wonderful for cricket in the UAE. The young local players get the opportunity to learn from international players, and that’s really wonderful,” he said.

All six teams — MI Emirates, Abu Dhabi Knight Riders, Desert Vipers, Dubai Capitals and defending champions Gulf Giants — have picked two UAE players each in their squads as part of the Emirates Cricket Board’s ambitious plan to strengthen the sport in the country.

“The local players can just watch the international players and try to understand what it takes to perform at the highest level,” Pooran said.

“I think the opportunities the UAE players are getting are really wonderful and the UAE cricket is doing a wonderful job,” he added, referring to the UAE Under 19 team’s stunning run to the Under 19 Asia Cup final last year and the senior team’s wins over Test-playing teams New Zealand and Afghanistan.

“We can see the development. Even the UAE national team have started to make progress at the international level. They are competing with top teams, which is wonderful.

“If you see these tournaments, the ILT20, T10, the local players are the ones that are actually making a difference. And they are going to get better and better and the future in the UAE is really looking wonderful for cricket.”

The second season of the ILT20 kicks off on Friday at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium with Gulf Giants taking on Sharjah Warriors in the opening game.

The MI Emirates begin their campaign against Dubai Capitals on Saturday.

“Our preparations have been brilliant, the guys have been here for the last couple of days and we are working really hard,” he said.

“The guys are looking forward to the challenge. We have a wonderful group of players, players with great experience which gives the younger players the opportunity to learn about their game, their skills, and how to execute them, it’s really nice. It’s a wonderful opportunity for the franchise and the ILT20 tournament.”

ILT20: ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW

January 19-February 17

Teams: 6 (MI Emirates, Abu Dhabi Knight Riders, Desert Vipers, Dubai Capitals, Gulf Giants, Sharjah Warriors)

Matches: 34

Venues: 3 (Dubai International Stadium, Sharjah Cricket Stadium and Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi)

Defending champions: Gulf Giants

Top international stars:

David Warner (Dubai Capitals), Shaheen Shah Afridi (Desert Vipers), Sunil Narine (Abu Dhabi Knight Riders), Nicholas Pooran (MI Emirates), Alex Hales (Desert Vipers), Rovman Powell (Dubai Capitals), Trent Boult (MI Emirates)

Opening match:

Friday

Gulf Giants vs Sharjah Warriors

Sharjah Cricket Stadium

6:30 pm


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