T10 League's Chairman bullish on league's success

With the top cricketers signing up for the four-day tournament and the fans showing huge interest, the chairman of the league Shaji-ul Mulk is optimistic about its success.

Shaji-ul Mulk (right), the chairman of the T10 League, with Wasim Akram.   -  Special Arrangement

The last few weeks have been extremely stressful for Shaji-ul Mulk. The business tycoon from Dubai has travelled to various nations to ensure that his brainchild — the T10 Cricket League — gets off to a smooth start in Sharjah.

And on the eve of inauguration of the inaugural edition of the tournament, Mulk — the chairman of the League — appears to be a relieved man. With the top cricketers signing up for the four-day tournament and the fans showing huge interest, Mulk is optimistic about its success.

READ: Shortest format braced for explosive start

But then, speaking to Sportstar from Sharjah, Mulk makes it clear that the tournament will increase the number of teams and the amount of matches from next season.

Excerpts from an interview…

With just a day left for the T10 Cricket League to begin, how has been the preparation?

It is brilliant. The preparations have been going very well. The players are here, the stadium is being redone to ensure a good tournament.

Ever since the league was floated, it left the cricketing fraternity divided. While one section felt the T10 would be a welcome move, a major section opined that such formats could be detrimental for the game’s future. How do you react to this?

There is a huge interest from the international cricket boards, cricketers and the public. The tickets are sold out for all the days and even then the demands for seats are huge. That is a strong indication of how well the format has been accepted by all. The players are very excited to appear in the 10-over format, and they see it as a new innovation. It is evolution of cricket — from T20 to T10. It is much faster and players like Virender Sehwag have already said that this format will strengthen cricket’s bid for an Olympic spot. Even Mahendra Singh Dhoni had a very strong view about the league.

So, all is going well.

But then, for any league, the actual challenge begins from the second season. What would be the league’s survival strategy?

We start off as a four-day league and obviously you can’t really expect a huge commercial success in a four-day league. So, we will certainly be increasing the number of teams and the number of matches next year. That’s the plan. We want to improve and evolve further.

The first year is more about seeing how things go. Next year, we plan to have eight teams and around 20-plus matches. The tournament can go up to eight days. It’s all in the plans.

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Despite a hugely successful player draft, a lot of big names pulled out of the league. Has that affected the league? Who are the big names available now?

The whole world is playing the league actually. You spoke about Kumar Sangakkara pulling out and Dwayne Bravo coming in, that shows the strength of the league. Some of the top players were not even picked in the draft. For instance,Pakistan’s Babar Azam was not picked in any of the squads. There were 280 international players competing. You name the players and we have got them all. Almost entire Pakistan’s Champions Trophy winning side is there, the top Bangladeshi players are here. Sri Lanka has sent the whole team under the captaincy of Dinesh Chandimal. Then you have Alex Hales. So, all the big names are here.

Of the semi-retired players, there is Sehwag (and also Shahid Afridi). Sangakkara pulled out due to personal reasons. There are cricketers from India, Pakistan,Sri Lanka, Bangladesh. The South Asian cricketing rivalry is well revived.

You talk about reviving South Asian cricketing rivalry. But as a league that has quite a few Indian franchise owners and an Indian title sponsor, don’t you think the absence of Indian players do create a void?

I will correct your statement. It is not about having the involvement of Indian teams or players. It is a South Asian league and we have the participation of all the nationalities. We would like to keep it that way.

But yes, having Indian players on board is always a big boost for any league. As and when the BCCI agrees to release the Indian players — both contracted and non-contracted — they will be brought on board. But right now, this is all we have.

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