Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent
Abu Dhabi Cricket (ADC) is set to put itself on the growing list of boards with T20 tournaments, launching one of its own, which will feature six teams - one each from the domestic circuit of Pakistan, South Africa, Australia, Afghanistan and England, in addition to a team from the UAE. The three-day tournament, tagged the Abu Dhabi T20 Trophy, will comprise seven games played at Sheikh Zayed Stadium from October 4 to 6.
If all goes to plan, this will be the third T20 tournament - the others being the proposed Afghanistan league and another run by the Emirates Cricket Board, plus the T10 League - to be played in the UAE within the space of three months.
Lahore Qalandars from the Pakistan Super League, Yorkshire Vikings from the T20 Blast, Boost Defenders from the Shpageeza League in Afghanistan, Hobart Hurricanes from the Big Bash League and Titans from South Africa's Ram Slam will join a team from the UAE in the competition. The tournament is sanctioned by the Emirates board and the ICC. It will be regulated by ADC, with the support of Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC), a major powerhouse in UAE sports.
"Make no mistake, this a dynamic field of the best of the best," Aref Al Awani, general secretary, Abu Dhabi Sports Council, said. "With this level of player power, the tournament allows Abu Dhabi to deliver on our mandate of ushering in an exciting new era of cricket in the Emirates. The tournament will certainly help cement Abu Dhabi's international sporting credentials, reinforcing its major events hub reputation and expand awareness of our world-class facilities."
The ADC plans to hold the tournament on an annual basis for the next three years. The stadium has a seating capacity of a few thousand, but with the grass banks square of the wicket, is expected to comfortably accommodate 20,000 spectators. "All the ingredients are there," ECB CEO David East said. "The ever-improving facilities, the fan base, the support of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and ADC's proven organisational expertise in world-class events..."
Abu Dhabi has long attempted to host prestigious cricketing events. The stadium has hosted several Pakistan home matches, and the ADC council has also been a major organiser of pre-season games for various English counties. The Sheikh Zayed Stadium, in 2009, had an agreement with the MCC which made them Associate Club partners. The first use of pink ball, in a game between MCC and Durham, also took place here in 2010.
"We wanted to set ourselves apart from the rest of the world and offer a different product, without creating another franchise-led league," Matthew Boucher, acting CEO of the ADC, said. "It's an absolute honour to see the best of the best from around the world's established teams gather in Abu Dhabi to offer fans an experience that does not currently exist anywhere else. We are very grateful to all the teams and their management for backing this initiative and getting on board."