By Amindha de Alwis
CEO of Abu Dhabi Cricket Matt Boucher, commented that ten-over cricket would be an ideal format to showcase cricket in the Olympic Games, given its eye-catching and fast-paced nature which lines up with the objectives included in the Olympic Charter, He made these remarks to the Dailymirror ahead of the fourth edition of the Abu Dhabi T10 League which is set to kick-off on January 28.
“I think the format is exactly what the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Olympics would be looking at. A maximum eyeballs delivery of cricket. The Olympic charter has objectives and including short form ten-over cricket will be a massive boost to any Olympics. I do believe that it is a fantastic format that will continue to grow and evolve around the world,” expressed Boucher.
The T10 League had its birth in Sharjah in 2017 but relocated to the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi from its third season onwards under the name ‘Abu Dhabi T10 League.’ What started out as a six-team venture with a total of 13 games has now expanded into a 29-match tournament comprising eight teams. The format has caught on across borders as well with several other countries, particularly those that are less traditional centers for cricket, giving the 10-overs game a go.
“The UAE’s expatriate population (in particular) has become more interested in the event year after year. The first edition was really a test edition, a petri dish for the format of cricket and that developed into more matches in year two and obviously then in the third year - Abu Dhabi’s first year - we had a full eight teams and 29 matches, an opening celebration and also had 129,000 spectators over the ten days which is an incredible number for this part of the world,” he conveyed.
Commenting on whether the format was skewed towards batsmen as opposed to having a balance between bat and ball, Boucher said,
“If I look at the memories of the first edition we held in Abu Dhabi they are certainly batting highlights that I can remember. We saw that Chris Lynn was stellar with his performances and drove Maratha Arabians to victory. So yes, I think it can be a batsman’s paradise but that does not mean the bowlers are not important. Teams consider bowling strategy as equally as important. But I think it is fair to say it is a format that does favour the batsmen. You have only ten overs, so every defensive shot is essentially a step backwards.”
“We do have conversations often about how we can balance it out a little bit. Boundary size comes up quite often. We do resist bringing boundaries in. We are not going to become an event with a 55-meter boundary. We have got the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium and we will be utilising its maximum boundary sizes. So, it is not all about the batsmen; there are ways to protect the bowlers and it is something that we continue to discuss from a cricket operations side,” Boucher added.
Boucher stressed that the tournament was not only seen as a commercial venture but also as a means providing opportunities to players in the UAE as well as driving interest in the sport.
“I think we hold our heads very high and very proudly that this is a homegrown product, The Abu Dhabi T10 – all four editions have been held in the UAE under the partnership of the Emirates Cricket Board and its extremely important that we become an aspirational event for local cricketers. Each team has two in their lineup and the starting elevens must embrace one at least one UAE player. Again, discussions are in place to increase that to two in future editions,” revealed Boucher.
While admitting that hosting the tournament amidst the Covid-19 pandemic would be a logistical hurdle, Boucher was confident of delivering a quality product having observed how the Indian Premier League was successfully conducted a few months prior.
“We learned a lot from the IPL. The BCCI’s medical team and the Department of Health here in the UAE and everyone else involved who delivered that event. Players are becoming more familiar with a period of isolation and I think our three day isolation before training begins on day four is very realistic.”
We are planning the tournament with potentially hosting some spectators. We will receive the Government’s advice and direction around January 7 or 8. I think from a Government and an Abu Dhabi Cricket perspective we see this as a tourism and community enrichment project but out primary interest is to run one of the best events in world cricket . We want to be bio-secure and we want to promote Abu Dhabi as a world class sporting destination,” he said.
A total of twelve Sri Lankan cricketers have been drafted by teams to appear in the tournament which is to run from January 28 to February 6. Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Lahiru Kumara and Wanindu Hasaranga are to play for the Deccan Gladiators while Dasun Shanaka and Dushmantha Chameera were drafted by the Delhi Bulls. Thisara Perera, Ajantha Mendis and Chamara Kapugedara will represent the Pune Devils with Nuwan Pradeep and Maheesh Theekshana lining up for Northern Warriors. Isuru Udana and Avishka Fernando will play for Bangla Tigers and Team Abu Dhabi respectively.