Cricket is one of the least competitive sports from the global standpoint. There are more than 250 countries in the world, which include Sovereign states, dependent territories and in some cases constituent countries of the sovereign states. Of these, only 10 play cricket as full ICC members. In World Cups, some Associate members are also allowed to qualify but the final number doesn’t even add up to 20. In contrast, football, tennis, badminton and other sports are far more popular at international levels. But cricket enjoys a unique advantage in regions inhabited by Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankas and Bangladeshis. This fan base accounts for nearly one-fourth of the world’s population of 7.3 billion. That is a huge number and the key for cricket’s commercial salability. The shortest format, T-20 has become vastly popular since contests can be completed in the same time that one spends watching a movie in a cinema hall. The Indian Premier League, IPL is the most popular tournament and it attracts world’s best talent. The commercial exploitation of the game has made cricketers very rich and it is a win-win situation for everyone since organizers and franchises also make good money. IPL’s huge success has paved the way for similar leagues in Sri Lanka, South Africa, Bangladesh, Australia and the Caribbean. The latest to join the bandwagon is the Masters Champions League or the MCL. This new idea is the brainchild of Mr. Zafar Shah, Chairman of GM Sports, which is a part of the Grand Midwest Group Dubai. MCL was launched in June 2015 and it will be a T-20 tournament for retired cricketers, some of whom might never have played in a T-20 format during their careers. As per the program, six participating teams will play over two weeks in February 2016 to lay their claims on the inaugural MCL Trophy.
With the support of a sizeable Indian and Pakistani population in the UAE, this region of the Persian Gulf has become a beehive of cricket tournaments of all hues. For the Pakistan team, UAE is the second home, where the team plays test matches and other fixtures against visiting ICC teams. Besides, UAE has acquired the associate membership of the ICC and hosts visiting teams from Ireland, Scotland, Afghanistan, Canada, Oman, Kenya, Hong Kong and other Associate members of the ICC. In February 2016, cricket lovers in UAE will be able to watch such legends as Brian Lara, Wasim Akram, Jacques Kallis and Adam Gilchrist among several others. The latest event has been designed exclusively for the retired cricketers and since each team will have 15 members each, 90 retired cricketers could be seen in action in three major stadiums spread across UAE. These stadiums are Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi, Dubai Sports City Stadium, and the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
The opening event on June 3, 2015 was attended by former captains from Australia and England. Allan Border and Graham Gooch are also listed as the members of MCL’s Governing Council. Each of the six teams will have 15 players and the auction process is set to start soon. Indian legend Virender Sehwag chose his 37th birthday on October 20, 2015 to announce his retirement and therefore he will become eligible to play in the MCL. Sehwag was in Dubai last Monday and he had already expressed his intention of quitting all forms of cricket, including the IPL. However, Sehwag will complete the ongoing Ranji Trophy season as Haryana’s captain.
The homepage of MCL website splashed an image of eight players lined up side-by-side with their backs facing the camera. The names on the seven T-shirts were; Sangakkara, Gilchrist, Sehwag, Lara, Wasim, Kallis and Mahela. The T-shirt of the eighth player showed a question mark. The coming days will reveal the teams, players, owners, sponsors and the schedule of the upcoming tournament.