Mumbai, India: Some of cricket’s greatest former international players are due to return to competitive action in a new and unique T20 tournament, which will be held annually across three stadiums in the United Arab Emirates.
The Masters Champions League, MCL, will feature a franchise format. However, unlike the IPL or Big Bash, teams will not be based on geographic location, and instead will simply include the best possible players a franchise owner can put together from the qualifying player base.
The tournament will be made up of six teams in its first year, with a total of 90 players taking part – 15 members per squad. The players must all have been former international cricketers who are now retired from all forms of the professional sport.
The MCL has been approved for a 10 year period by the Emirates Cricket Board, while the organiser and rights owner of the tournament, GM Sports, is also closely following the established guidelines set out by game’s governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC).
The inaugural MCL matches are due to take place over two weeks in February, 2016.They will be played in the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium and Sharjah Cricket Stadium, which have all previously hosted major cricket tournaments, including the IPL, as well as first class and international Test matches.
Speaking at a press conference held in Dubai to mark the official launch of the tournament, Zafar Shah, MCL Chairman, said: “As with many other popular sports, there is a real desire amongst fans and cricketers, to see some of the game’s retired icons back in serious competition. The MCL will be a unique and competitive annual T20 tournament offering exactly that. It will allow fans to consistently watch quality and entertaining cricket involving some of the legends of the game.
“We are delighted to have secured Emirates Cricket Board approval and we are following all ICC guidelines for this tournament, highlighting the importance of having cricket’s governing bodies in support of a successful and well-regulated annual event.
“The UAE is an ideal location for this unique tournament: It’s easy to access from anywhere in the world; it has a large fan base already living in the country; and it has three fantastic international stadiums to host the matches.We hope that by holding the tournament in the UAE it might also inspire a new generation of Emiratis to take up the great game, leaving a lasting legacy in the country.
“Our ultimate vision is for the MCL to become the natural next step for all international players retiring from the professional game to extend their careers in a masters league.”
David East, CEO of the Emirates Cricket Board, was also present at the press conference. He commented:“The MCL is a fantastic idea, which is now being brought to life right here in the UAE, which is exactly the right home for the tournament. The chance to watch proper, competitive action involving the greats of the game will inspire many and help to ensure UAE cricket continues to go from strength to strength. We are pleased with the professionalism and experience of the organisers, including the people they are working with and the commitment and love of the game they all have. For these reasons, and following all the correct due diligence at this stage, we have been willing to give the MCL our approval for a 10 year period. We look forward to it getting underway next year and particularly to see how some of the UAE greats perform.”
Brian Lara, one of the iconic retired players who has signed up to join the MCL, added: “I am thrilled and honoured to be taking part in what promises to be an exceptional display of competitive cricket. The UAE is a great location for a tournament like this to be based, with a big fan base in the country already and easy access for millions of other fans around the world.I hope people get behind the MCL and support some of the heroes of the game as they look to extend their careers a little longer. The MCL is a tremendous force for good, which is partly what attracted me to it. The organisers have ensured giving back is a major theme, alongside inspiring cricket in the Middle East and in terms of leaving a lasting legacy.”