Brendon McCullum and Rashid Khan will be among the elite stars to make their T10 League debuts in the second edition of the event but Pakistan and New Zealand Test players will be unavailable due to their series in the UAE.
Ex-New Zealand batsman McCullum has been named as an icon player for new franchise Rajputs while Afghanistan’s teenage star Rashid has been roped in by Maratha Arabians.
Monday night’s Mini Draft in Dubai presented an opportunity for all eight franchise team owners to make early additions to their squad before the main Draft in early September, where a wider pool of international players will be available.
But the list of players that were available in Monday’s draft was of the highest calibre. Other big names who will be making their first appearance in the shortest format of the game in Sharjah later this year are Australia’s T20 specialist Chris Lynn and West Indies’ all-rounder, Andre Russell, who were selected by Rajputs and Northern Warriors.
Talented Sussex all-rounder Jofra Archer was signed up for debutants Karachians, who also roped in Anton Devchich, Ben Laughlin and Colin de Grandhomme.
England ODI and T20 captain Eoin Morgan as well as Alex Hales were among the Englishmen to play in last year’s tournament and the pair will be joined by more of their international team-mates in 2018.
Bengal Tigers’ selected England opening batsman Jason Roy and wicket-keeper batsman Sam Billings while David Willey was chosen by Pakhtoons.
Bengal Tigers, who named West Indian all-rounder Sunil Narine as their icon player, strengthened their squad with the acquisitions of Pakistan batsman Asif Ali and Afghanistan spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman.
For their co-owner Neelesh Bhatnager, he was delighted to have got the players they wanted, saying: “I’m pretty happy with what we got and did our homework and we had a strategy to pick our players and we got almost all of them.”
“We needed a wicket-keeper because we lost Sarfraz so Billings is a good replacement. Asif Ali is a rising star in Pakistan and overall we are very happy.”
Although the dates are yet to be finalised, T10 League chairman Shaji Ul-Mulk confirmed that the expanded 10-day tournament is likely to be held from November 23 to December 2 at Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
With Pakistan set to play New Zealand in the Test series in the UAE at the same time, Ul-Mulk conceded that the clash of dates makes it impossible for players of the two nations to feature in the T10 League.
That means the likes of Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed, who was Bengal Tigers’ captain and icon player will miss this year’s tournament but Ul-Mulk is convinced the expanded competition will exceed expectations.
“The dates in principle have been agreed but with the Test series going on at the same time, we have no choice because we missed that slot,” he said.
“That means the the Test players of New Zealand and Pakistan teams will be missing. Otherwise everyone will be available.”
He added: “We are very excited for the new season ahead. Season One was four days and it was more of a trial where six teams were playing. Now this is a big league for us because we have now gone into a full-scale 10-day tournament with 28 games planned.
“We have added two more teams and we are looking at a competition where all the top players will be playing for us. It will be a big challenge. One thing was to do a four-day event and the other thing is to do a 10-day event. We are very geared up and excited at the same time.”
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