Lara, Akram and Gilchrist part of Masters Champions League T20
Dubai: Cricketing fans from around the world will get another opportunity to see their favourite retired players back in action when the inaugural edition of Masters Champions League (MCL) kicks off next year in United Arab Emirates. The T20 league, which promises to have iconic players from around the world, is tentatively scheduled to start in February or March of 2016.
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Icon players West Indies' Brian Lara (left), Wasim Akram of Pakistan and Australia's Adam Gilchrist during the launch of Masters Champions League in Dubai yesterday
There was significant buzz around during the official launch of the tournament here at the Burj Al Arab hotel yesterday where Wasim Akram, Brian Lara and Adam Gilchrist were announced as the icon players. The two-week tournament will be played across three venues — Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. Six teams will participate in the round-robin format and every team will have two icon players.
With legendary cricketers like Allan Border and Graham Gooch in its Governing Council body, and Dean Jones looking after the operations of the league, the tournament promises to be a grand affair.
Only international stars
There is a criteria to be eligible to play in the MCL, said the chairman of the league Zafar Shah. "The player should have retired from international cricket and must have played at least five T20s, ODIs or Tests for their country. The screening of players will be done by FICA (Federation of International Cricketers' Association)," said Shah.
To promote cricket in the UAE, the organisers have made it mandatory to include two players from the ICC Associate nations. The former international greats were left licking their lips at the prospect of taking the field again. They also tried their best to answer a poignant concern of these former internationals having the fire and fitness to compete in fast-paced T20 cricket.
Fitness, not an issue
"There is something called as professional integrity. When we commit to play, you would want to give your best effort and prepare your best for it," said former Australian wicketkeeper-batsman Gilchrist. Pakistan's legend Akram said: "Once you are on the field, the competitive streak come automatically. It will also give me an opportunity to work on my fitness."
Lara, who retired from international cricket in 2007, shrugged off fitness concerns. "I have played a few matches since my retirement. I also keep playing golf, so I don't think it will be hard for me to train," said the former West Indian batting great. Some Indian greats are also expected to be participating in the league. "The talks are on. It will be all done with the BCCI's permission," said Jones.