Ahmed Raza believes the Emirates Cricket Board’s (ECB) new franchise T20 league is the ‘best thing ever’ to happen for UAE cricket that will not only help the senior national members but also benefit the younger generation.
The ECB last week unveiled plans to launch their own five-team tournament that will be played over 22 days in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah in December and January.
With the cricketing bodies of England & Wales, Ireland, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, New Zealand and the West Indies showing their support, there will be a number of international and upcoming stars in each franchise.
The 16-man squad will feature six international players, two emerging cricketers from full member countries, three from Associate nations, two juniors and three UAE cricketers.
The news is by far the biggest in terms of ECB-run tournaments and UAE spinner Raza insists the announcement is a significant moment for UAE cricket.
“It’s the best thing ever,” he said. “Our facilities are used by the whole world and their cricketing organisations are arranging their own T20 leagues. This ECB tournament is great news and this is something that we now own.
“The segregation is so good because there will be emerging players who’ll be there, you’ll have Under-19 cricketers there as well. You’ll have local and other players from six full member nations and I think it’s the best thing which has happened for UAE cricket.”
Raza, who made his UAE debut 12 years ago as a 17-year-old, will be turning 30 this year in October and insists the unveiling of the tournament has come at the right time.
“I’m very happy because for us it has come at the right time as there are some players who are 30 or will be hitting that age this year in the national team,” he said.
“Looking at the players who are younger than us right now, then maybe three or four years down the line they will be playing their own T20 tournament. We didn’t have that as a kid but these guys will have it when they get there.
“We are experienced now and it’s the right time for UAE youngsters. There’s so much opportunity to play with developing players in the game.”
Shaiman Anwar thought his chances of playing in an international league were over before being selected in Global T20 Canada.
Like many of his international team-mates, Anwar, 39, has often been overlooked for the major competitions despite scoring more than 700 runs in 26 matches of the shortest format.
But he was finally rewarded when the veteran was drafted by Edmonton Royals as their 11th pick in Sunday’s auction.
Anwar first heard that he was selected during his visit of Pakistan and while he could not believe it first initially, he was thrilled to have finally got his breakthrough.
“I was surprised for sure,” he said. “One of my friends called me and told me that I was selected in the new T20 league in Canada and I really didn’t believe it. But I then looked on the internet and it was true. I was really surprised because I thought my chances of playing in a big T20 league was over especially when I am nearly 40. But it’s fantastic news for me.”
Anwar will be joining fellow UAE team-mate Ahmed Raza in the squad which also features ex-Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi, T20 blistering batsman Chris Lynn and New Zealand’s Luke Ronchi.
And Anwar, who hails from Sialkot, says he cannot wait to train on a daily basis with Afridi.
“Everyone in the world knows that he’s a famous player. He is a Pakistan legend and especially in the T20 he’s an exceptional player,” he said.
UAE captain Mustafa, the No.15 pick, will line up alongside ex-Australia captain Steve Smith and West Indies World T20 winners Darren Sammy and Keiron Pollard for the Toronto Nationals.
Spinner Raza and veteran batsman Anwar were drafted as Edmonton Royals’ 11th and 14th picks and will have Shahid Afridi, Chris Lynn and Luke Ronchi as their team-mates.
The inaugural competition, which takes place from June 28 to July 15, will also see the likes of David Warner, Chris Gayle and Nepal’s rising star Sandeep Lamichhane in action.