Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent
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The inaugural Emirates T20x League has been cancelled, following the tournament's failure to sell franchises within the stipulated time. The tournament was scheduled to be staged next month with Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi as the host venues.
The league, a joint venture between the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) and the OPi group, had gained ICC approval for the next 10 years subject to an annual appraisal. It was to feature five franchises - the organisers had not revealed their names, but it is believed they were meant to represent five Emirates of the UAE.
"Following talks between the Emirates Cricket Board and event promoter OPi, it has been mutually agreed that the planned UAE T20x franchise cricket league will not take place in the UAE this coming December/January," the ECB said in a statement. "The decision follows the conclusion of the Invitation to Tender process for tournament franchises.
"Both the ECB and OPi had been hopeful of achieving the sale of five franchise teams for the first year of the tournament, and whilst negotiations had been completed on two franchise teams and a further three were well advanced, it was felt that there was no longer sufficient time to close the sales process and to successfully deliver and promote a December event."
During the ICC's annual conference in Dublin in July, the chief executives committee (CEC) and the ICC Board had discussed - and reportedly come to a consensus on - limiting player participation to no more than three T20 leagues a year. According to the ECB's statement, this too had impacted the league's ability to attract commercial partnerships.
"OPi, a privately-owned sports promoter, and the ECB had been working together since 2017 to develop the new franchise league, and had attracted interest and support from many of the world's leading players and coaches," the statement said. "The decision of the ICC in July to explore potential limitations on T20 cricket leagues and player participation in them, meant that investment into UAE T20x had to be curtailed throughout the summer in anticipation of a decision. This in turn impacted timings around commercial conversations with potential franchise buyers."
As such, the tournament was racing against time. It was supposed to begin on December 19, with a player draft scheduled for November 18. The organisers hadn't signed a deal with a broadcaster either.
Despite all this, the league had already announced five icon players - Eoin Morgan, David Miller, Andre Russell, Shahid Afridi and Kumar Sangakkara - with AB de Villiers also involved as a non-playing ambassador.
The first season was supposed to feature 22 matches played over 24 days. Each of the five franchises was to comprise 16 players - six international and two emerging players from Full Member countries, three from Associate countries, two young players from the local domestic set-up and three UAE national cricketers.
The venture was spearheaded by the former PCB chairman Nasim Ashraf, who during his term with the Pakistan board had initiated the idea of launching a T20 league within Pakistan. However, the idea never materialised under Ashraf.
The T20x league operations were the responsibility of Salman Sarwar Butt, another Pakistani who was one of the driving forces behind the Pakistan Super League in 2016. He later parted ways with the PSL after the PCB failed to renew his contract.