Three successful UAE-based businessmen, including the co-owner of UAE Royals, have joined hands to purchase a team that will compete in the inaugural Ten Cricket League (TCL) in Sharjah later this year.
Brothers Anis and Rizwan Sajan, owners of Danube and Neelesh Bhatnagar, managing director of NB Ventures and co-owner of UAE Royals, the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) franchise, have bought a team, which will be named Gujarat Tigers.
Their announcement came less than 24 hours after reports emerged of the tournament on Wednesday evening.
According to various outlets, the 10-over competition will run from December 21-24 at the iconic Sharjah Cricket Stadium and will see the likes of Virender Sehwag, Kumar Sangakkara, Chris Gayle and Shahid Afridi in action over 90 minutes.
Shaji Ul-Mulk, president of TCL, confirmed to Sport360° that a press conference will be announced later to reveal further details.
For Anis, who is described as ‘Mr Cricket’ of the UAE, due to his passion for the sport as well as owning successful UAE teams Danube Tigers and Danube Lions, and Masters Champions League outfit Sagittarius Strikers, he is thrilled to be back in the game.
“We thought a name like Gujarat Tigers would be good because the Indian Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) is from Gujarat and that’s why we preferred to choose that city,” explained Anis, who will also mentor the Indian cricket team during next month’s Indoor World Cup in Dubai.
“I’m really happy to be a co-owner of the team because this is a new format. When T20 was first launched, people were not sure how successful it would become and look at it now.”
Bhatnagar, says the opportunity to co-own a sports team was one he could not turn down. “I co-own the UAE Royals in the International Premier Tennis League and this will be the second team I’ll be co-owning and am really exciting with this new venture,” he said.
While Bhatnagar and Anis have both expressed their desire to sign blistering batsman Gayle during the draft, the latter believes the competition has the potential to exceed expectations.
“If this tournament is pulled off well and there’s crowd and there is the right kind of players playing, this is going to be a tournament like the big football leagues that are all over the world,” he said.
“It will be a super tournament and I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of the other countries start launching their own competitions. I think this will take UAE to another level.”
Heriot-Watt made it hat-trick of wins in the UAE national qualifiers of the Red Bull Campus Cricket after outclassing Bits Pilani.
Their reward is a ticket to Sri Lanka to represent the UAE at the World Finals, where they will take on Australia, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, India, Pakistan and South Africa for a chance to be crowned champions.
At Ajman Mumbai Cricket ground, Bits Pilani elected to bat first but captain Ishant was left to rue the decision after losing two wickets in the first two overs.
Apart from Pawan and Yasaswi who offered some resistance with 25 and 52 runs respectively, wickets continued to fall with Bits Pilani all out for 117. UAE international Chirag Suri, who was bought by Gujarat Lions in the IPL auction in February, showed his class with the ball, after finishing with figures of 3-24.
The batsman later returned to the crease, by scoring a quick-fire 49 off 25 deliveries, sealing victory for his team within nine overs. Suri was named man of the match and the man of the tournament awards for his all-round performance, as well as the best batsman award for an outstanding campaign throughout the Red Bull Campus Cricket 2017. Ihtisham Sabir was declared best bowler.
Speaking of the victory, Suri, said: “With this win we are Hat-trick heroes. We won Red Bull Campus Cricket thrice and are honoured to represent the UAE in the final in Sri Lanka.
“It was not an easy match but with the right spirit and great players we made it happen”.
Tournament director Brendon Kuruppu, was impressed with what he saw from the teams. “There’s nothing quite like a high-intensity tournament to test the mettle of developing cricketers, and that’s exactly what the Campus Cricket World Final is,” he said. “You learn and improve from playing against the best. This tournament is a wonderful opportunity for players to pick each other’s brains and share their own knowledge on the game, while also showing the world what they’ve got.”
The group stage in the World Finals of the Red Bull Campus Cricket 2017 will place from September 10 to 12 in Colombo. The action will then move from the capital to Galle where the famous Galle International Stadium will host the semi-finals and final. Defending champions, Sri Lanka’s Business Management School are aiming to win successive titles – a feat only previously achieved by Assupol Tuks Cricket (University of Pretoria).
Chirag Suri has a chance to make his first-class debut for the UAE after he was named in the squad for their tour against Namibia next month.
The 22-year-old batsman was announced in the final 14-man squad for their four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup (ICup) that begins on September 16.
The two nations will meet again at the Wanderers Cricket Ground in Windhoek in two 50-over World Cricket League matches on September 16 and 19.
Suri keeps his place after being recalled to the squad for the triumphant 50-over series against the Netherlands in July but despite never playing an official four-day game, he looks forward to the challenge.
“It’s a great feeling to be in the UAE squad,” said Suri, who became the first UAE cricketer to be sold in the IPL auction when he was bought by Gujarat Lions this year.
“We have been working hard in Dubai in trying to work to conditions that we would face over there. I am happy that all my hard work is paying off and that the selectors and coaches are seeing that I’ve been performing well in domestic tournaments.”
Wicket-keeper Saqlain Haider has been recalled after missing the Netherlands tour.
In his last I-Cup outing, the 30-year-old duly delivered by smashing a century in Apri’s nine-wicket victory over Papua New Guinea in Abu Dhabi.
The team will be captained by Rohan Mustafa with Shaiman Anwar as his deputy.
The UAE are second bottom in the I-Cup standings and last in the World Cricket League but Zayed Abbas, Emirates Cricket spokesperson, believes the side are capable of delivering positive results.
“We have been greatly anticipating the I-Cup and WCL series against Namibia, and we are extremely confident the team will post strong results against the hosts,” he said.
“Participating and doing well, in these tournaments, is vitally important in continuing our climb up the ICC rankings ladder.”
To ensure they have the best preparation for their matches, the UAE will fly out on September 3 for a 12-day camp. They will spend time at South Africa High Performance Centre (University of Pretoria) for six days, before moving to Windhoek.
“Throughout the summer the team, and the coaching staff, have been working very hard to take their skills and fitness to the next level,” said Abbas. “This preparation camp will be integral in building on these efforts, and strengthen an already tight-knit competitive team.”