DUBAI: When Stuart Robertson introduced Twenty20 cricket to attract new audiences for county cricket in 2003, he may not have foreseen the impact the bang-bang format would have on the sport on the whole in the years to come. Or that there would be, a decade-and-a-half down the line, T10 cricket too.
Since the first T20 international between Australia and New Zealand in Auckland in 2005, the format has spread like wildfire, with six World T20 tournaments attracting crowds and money in equal measure and tournaments like the Indian Premier League and the Australian Big Bash League becoming prominent in the annual calendars.
But innovations are a must, in all walks of life, and that led to Shaji Ul Mulk, the UAE-based businessman, to launch the idea of a T10 league, a plan that immediately attracted Shahid Afridi.
For Afridi, retired from international cricket but still one of the most sought-after names in T20 leagues around the world, 10 overs are enough to enthral the crowd. “When I was told of the T10 league I jumped and said that ‘please I want to play this’,” said Afridi at the launch of the new league in Dubai on Tuesday (October 3).
The first edition of the tournament will be played out over just four days – with matches among four teams lasting 90 minutes each – in Sharjah in December this year, and has the organisers all excited.
“We all have played ten overs a side on the streets of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh but at a higher level this league will provide a better implementation of this,” said Mulk.
Among the brand ambassadors are Kumar Sangakkara, Afridi and Virender Sehwag. Eoin Morgan, Shakib Al Hasan and Misbah-ul-Haq are among the team icons, and Chris Gayle is expected to be part of the show.
The final look of all squads will be firmed up on October 25 when around 120 players go into a pool for a players’ draft to be held in Dubai.
“We all remember the days when Twenty20 cricket was launched and it impacted the other formats of the game. If this new format takes off I am sure it will also have an impact on the other three forms of the game,” said Morgan.
Misbah, who retired from international cricket earlier this year, was also excited at getting a chance to return to the game at the age of 43.
“I am excited and this format gives a chance to the ageing players like me because it needs just ten overs of batting and another ten for fielding so for my age it’s sustainable,” he joked.
Only time will tell how the fans embrace the format, which is what will decide its future.