Shakib al Hasan, Usman Khawaja, Sherfane Rutherford and Rilee Rossouw are among the leading names to have registered to compete in the Lankan Premier League, Sri Lanka's premier T20 franchise competition. The LPL is scheduled to begin from July 30 this year and run for three weeks, and despite concerns over the Covid-19 pandemic derailing plans, several top T20 cricketers from around the world are set to take part.
James Faulkner, Ben Cutting, Temba Bavuma, Brendan Taylor and Nicholas Pooran have also made themselves available for the draft, as are former Indian all-rounders Irfan Pathan and Yusuf Pathan. Pakistan, too, are well represented, with Haris Sohail, Mohammad Irfan, Shan Masood and Mohammad Hasnain having registered.
Sri Lanka Cricket vice-president Ravin Wickremaratne said: "Last year's success has certainly made a difference with more players from many cricket playing countries looking forward to play in the LPL, which is a very good sign for the League and Sri Lanka cricket."
The inaugural edition of the LPL was won by the Jaffna Stallions last year, one of five teams that took part in the tournament. According to SLC, 135 million viewers across television and digital platforms tuned in to watch the final between the Stallions and the Galle Gladiators, with fan engagement throughout the tournament generally quite high.
SLC will be hoping for similar numbers this time around, though Sri Lankan fans hoping for live action will have to wait a little longer, with the tournament likely to once again be held behind closed doors in Hambantota.
Concerns over the LPL being hosted in July-August first arose following the postponement of the Indian Premier League earlier this year. Despite SLC's successful hosting of the inaugural LPL, there were growing doubts over SLCs ability to guarantee a secure bio-bubble for players and staff amidst the growing number of cases.
"It's definitely going to be a challenge, there's no question," head of SLC's Medical Committee Prof. Arjuna de Silva had told ESPNcricinfo. "Last time we were in the middle of the second wave, but this time it's a totally different ball game."
SLC, for their part, have remained firm in their stance, assuring player safety citing the success of several inbound international series in the past year. De Silva also added that SLCs intention to hold all matches at a single stadium, the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Stadium, and the fact that it was close to a scarcely used airport in Mattala, meant the LPL was less likely to suffer the same pitfalls as the IPL.
Bangladesh: Shakib-ul-Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Mehdy Hasan Miraz, Taskin Ahmed, Liton Das, Soumya Sarkar
Australia: Usman Khawaja, Ben Cutting, James Faulkner,Ben Dunk, Callum Ferguson
West Indies: Sherfane Rutherford, Nocolas Pooran, Sheldon Cottrell, Rayad Emrit, Ravi Rampaul, Dwayne Smith, Denesh Ramdin, Johnson Charles, Rowman Powell
Pakistan: Haris Sohail, Waqas Maqsood, Muhammed Hasnain, Mohammed Irfan, Shoaib Maqsood, Shan Masood, Anwar Ali, Ammad Butt, Usman Shinwari
South Africa: Temba Bavuma, Rilee Rossouw, David Wiese, Jon Jon Trevor Smuts, Morne Morkel, Rassie Van Der Dussen, Keshav Maharaj, Tabraiz Shamsi, Hardus Viljoen
Afghanistan: Asghar Afghan, Mohammed Shahzad, Najibullah Zadran, Naveen Ul Haq, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Hazratullah Zazai, Naveen ul Haq, Qais Ahmad