The International League T20 (ILT20), a much-needed T20 league franchise that has lured many top players and coaches across the globe is all set to kick start on Friday (January 13). While there has been a rise in the games played by associate nations in the last couple of years, thanks to the T20 World Cup and also the ICC Cricket World Cup League 2, there are plenty of talented players from these non-traditional sides who go unnoticed. The ILT20 therefore aims to bridge that gap.
While the tournament may not have an official T20 status given that it is being hosted by the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) of the UAE – an associate nation – that has not stopped it from attracting many renowned faces in world cricket.
The only rule in the tournament is that a playing XI should contain at least two players from the associate nation, but one of them must be from the UAE. The remaining nine players can be from any country.
With that, let’s take a closer look at the teams:
Captain: Kieron Pollard
Coach: Shane Bond
The MI Emirates owned by the Reliance Industries that also owns the most successful franchise in the Indian Premier League (IPL) Mumbai Indians has once again gone all out in recruiting some of the best talents available. Their focus even in the IPL has always been on the core that got them so much success, and by the looks of it they intend to do the same here.
They have the experienced Kieron Pollard leading them along with Dwayne Bravo, who with 614 wickets is the leading wicket-taker in the format. You also throw in the likes of Trent Boult, Nicholas Pooran, Andre Fletcher, Imran Tahir and Samit Patel, the experience MI have at their dispose is enviable.
Despite having Tahir, Samit and Afghanistan’s Zahir Khan seem to be the only three frontline spin options for the Emirates, which may not be ideal, but they are not short of power-hitters down the order with the likes of Pollard, Jordan Thompson, Tom Lamonby, Dan Mousley among others who strike at over 140.
Not to forget, they have variety in every section – be it right-arm pace, left-arm pace, spin department, finishers etc. They are spoilt for choices.
Associate players to look out for:
MI perhaps have three of the best UAE players at their disposal – opener Mohammad Waseem, who scored at a strike-rate of 143.4 last year, Zahoor Khan (18 wickets, Econ 7.1 in 2022) and also the national team vice-captain and wicketkeeper Vriitya Aravind (536 runs @ SR of 122 in 2022).
Other than UAE, MI have Bas de Leede had a terrific 2022. in which he scored 382 runs at 108.5 and with the ball, he managed to crank a few up to 140 KMPH, picking up 23 wickets at 12 to go with an economy rate of 6.7. Scotland pacer Brad Wheal (27 wickets at 19.9 in 2022) could also be a useful option.
Best XI: Andre Fletcher/Mohammad Waseem, Will Smeed, Nicholas Pooran (wk), Najibullah Zadran/Samit Patel, Bas de Leede, Kieron Pollard (c), Dwayne Bravo, Jordan Thompson, Trent Boult, Imran Tahir, Zahoor Khan
First match: MI Emirates kick start their campaign against Sharjah Warriors at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi.
Captain: James Vince
Coach: Andy Flower
The James Vince-led side have Shimron Hetmyer and Chris Lynn as the two marquee players. Their top five consisting of Vince, Tom Banton, Lynn, Ollie Pope and Hetmyer are sure to send chills down the spine of the opposition. Hetmyer has a point to prove after he was not considered for the T20 World Cup post missing a flight to Australia in the series prior to that.
They also seem to be sorted on the bowling front, especially at the death, with Chris Jordan and Richard Gleeson likely to take charge. Not to forget all-rounders Liam Dawson and David Wiese too can whack a few and bowl useful overs. However, UAE’s Ashwanth Valthappa could be the one to surprise everyone. A left-hander who can bowl a bit of off-spin, Valthappa is more of an unknown quantity with chances of early success.
The Giants seem to have enough depth in the pace and spin departments, but have very limited resources when it comes to the batters. Barring those who will more or less make the XI, they do not have much more to dig in from their squad.
Associate players to look out for:
David Wiese, 37, has been plying his trade with Namibia at the international level for the last two years and has featured in leagues across the globe. He scored over 500 runs at a strike-rate of 160 last year and with the ball, his 36 wickets have come at an economy rate of a shade under eight.
Other players to look out for include the 17-year-old spinner Aaayan Khan from UAE, who impressed everyone with his tight line and length at the T20 World Cup. Having made his international debut in September last year, he is tipped for a bright future.
Namibia skipper Gerhard Erasmus could be another prospect. He finished as the leading ODI run-getter in 2022 with over 900 runs and in T20s, he adds value with both bat and ball that could at some point in the tournament prove pivotal.
Best XI: James Vince (c), Tom Banton (wk), Chris Lynn, Ollie Pope, Shimron Hetmyer, Liam Dawson, Ashwanth Valthappa, David Wiese, Chris Jordan/Richard Gleeson, Dominic Drakes/Tom Helm, Aayan Khan
First match: Gulf Giants begin their campaign against Abu Dhabi Knight Riders at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi on January 15.
Captain: Moeen Ali
Coach: Paul Farbrace
Marcus Stoinis’ will be available after January 25 following his Big Bash League (BBL) commitments, but Sharjah Warriors seem to have a well-balanced side. Moeen Ali’s men appear to carry a good mix of powerplay bashers, anchors and also enough firepower in the middle and lower down the order to get the job done.
Outside their best XI, there isn’t enough variety but this tournament could be an opportunity for someone to step up if needed. The English trio of Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Joe Denly and also Dawid Malan will perhaps have to play a big role in Sharjah achieving their goals this season.
Associate players to look out for:
Karthik Meiyappan and Junaid Siddique had their moments of glory during the T20 World Cup 2022. Leg-spinner Meiyappan picked up a hat-trick against Sri Lanka in the first round, while Siddique used his pace to his advantage to rattle a few batters. Not to forget, he hit one of the biggest sixes of the tournament when he dispatched Dushmantha Chameera over square-leg!
Another quick bowler Bilal Khan from Oman, finished with 43 ODI wickets in 2022. The left-arm quick has the knack of swinging the ball both ways and moreover, bowls them at decent pace. 18-year-old UAE opening batter Alishan Sharafu, who has played 17 games for his country too could be looked at some point.
Best XI: Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Evin Lewis, Dawid Malan, Tom Kohler-Cadmore/Joe Denly, Moeen Ali ©, Mohammad Nabi, Chris Woakes/Marcus Stoinis, Karthik Meiyappan, Junaid Siddique, Bilal Khan, Noor Ahmad
Captain: Colin Munro
Coach: James Foster
The Desert Vipers are spoilt for choices when it comes to the left-arm pace department with the trio of Sheldon Cottrell, Ruben Trumpelmann, Tymal Mills and UAE’s Shiraz Ahmed potentially vying for two spots. Furthermore, they also have left-arm wrist spinner Jake Lintott and the orthodox version in Mark Watt.
Vipers have a couple of Under-19 prospects in all-rounder Ronak Panoly and left-handed batter Ali Naseer. One of them are likely to play a regular part in the XI, with the experienced all-rounder Rohan Mustafa assured to get the nod for one of the two mandatory UAE spots.
The Munro-led side are not short of firepower in their batting as well. So much so that the experienced Adam Lyth and Dinesh Chandimal could warm the bench depending on the combination the team want to go in with. One of the best spinners in the world Wanindu Hasaranga is expected to join the squad following his international commitments.
Associate players to look out for:
Rohan Mustafa’s exclusion from the T20 World Cup squad despite being among the top 10 all-rounders in the world was a little baffling. However, the 34-year-old’s experience of playing in the UAE will certainly behoove the side.
Namibia’s Trumpelmann and Scotland spinner are certainly the other key players from the associate nation. Trumpelmann especially has upped his batting game along with his accurate left-arm seamers, while Watt has proved to be pivotal in especially choking the opposition with his orthodox spin as he has shown in the last two T20 World Cups.
Best XI: Alex Hales, Colin Munro, Sam Billings (wk), Sherfane Rutherford, Rohan Mustafa, Wanindu Hasaranga, Ronak Panoly, Tom Curran, Benny Howell, Sheldon Cottrell, Ruben Trumpelmann/Mark Watt
First match: Desert Vipers begin their ILT20 campaign against Sharjah Warriors on January 15 at the Dubai International Stadium
Abu Dhabi Knight Riders
Captain: Sunil Narine
Coach: Abhishek Nayar
The Abu Dhabi Knight Riders is the third and the latest link in the Knight Riders’ universe, originating from Kolkata and then reaching the shore of Trinidad & Tobago. Hence, there is no surprise that Sunil Narine and Andre Russell frame the core of this side. Narine, in fact, is leading the side in Abu Dhabi’s maiden campaign.
Add Akeal Hosein with Narine in the XI and Abu Dhabi’s spin department looks sorted with two quality finger spinners. Both bowlers have an economy of under 7 in T20s since 2022. Paul Stirling adds the crucial off-spin option. This quadrat of Narine, Russell, Hosein and Stirling fulfills the all-rounders’ quota aptly. They also possess raw pace with options in Marchant de Lange and Lahiru Kumara.
However, Abu Dhabi compromise on the batting front. Russell is the only power-hitter in the middle-order. Kennar Lewis, a part-time glovesman is the only wicket-keeping option in the squad and will have to play all matches. He is a top-order batter who averages only 18.7 in his T20 career.
On the basis of their best XI, Dhananjaya de Silva is the only back-up batting option. And he will not be available for the campaign until Sri Lanka finish their white-ball tour of India. Therefore, Lewis’ forced inclusion in the batting firepower is threatening for a side that is already thin on batting resources. And in one minor chink in their bowling line-up, they don’t have any leg-spinner in their squad.
Associates players to look out for:
Brandon Glover and Ali Khan are the only associate players in the squad. Being like for like cricketers, they will be contesting with each other for the associate player spot. Ali Khan has been another cricketer who has stayed with the Knight Riders in each of their three franchises. Glover, meanwhile, has been on the rise of late. He featured in four T20s in 2022 and picked 10 wickets at an economy of 7.2 runs per over.
He also holds the experience of playing in the T20 Blast and The Hundred. Playing against a touring India side in July, Glover nabbed figures of 3/33 including the wicket of Suryakumar Yadav.
Best XI: Paul Stirling, Kennar Lewis (wk), Colin Ingram, Charith Asalanka, Andre Russell, Fahid Nawaz, Akeal Hosein, Sunil Narine, Marchant de Lange, Brandon Glover, Sabir Ali
First Match: Abu Dhabi Knight Riders will feature in the lung opener, playing an away game against Dubai Capitals on January 13.
Captain: Rovman Powell
Coach: Phil Simmons
The Dubai Capitals, the sister franchise of Delhi Capitals, is loaded with batting all-rounders. They hold four prime batters in their squad who can bowl part-time off-spin when required and can easily play at least two of them in the XI. There are more all-rounders in Fabian Allen, Dasun Shanaka and Chamika Karunaratne. They also possess a bottomless quiver of batters, with multiple back-ups for almost every spot. Dubai simply have too many batters to choose from.
Sikandar Raza is now a budget Narine with his bowling arm and a ferocious hitter with the bat who is in the peak phase of his career. He will be the most vital player for Dubai alongside the skipper Rovman Powell and Shanaka. Mujeeb Ur Rahman’s presence safeguards the spin department.
Beefing up their batting more than required has evidently resulted in a lack of bowling resources. For starters, they lack express pace. Fred Klaasen and Isuru Udana are the only two specialist pacers in the squad. Also, like Abu Dhabi, there is no trace of leg-spin in Dubai’s outfit. Hence, Dubai can struggle to prevent run-scoring on truer pitches. Last but not the least, Niroshan Dickwella is the only wicket-keeper in the squad, unless Robin Uthappa decides to take gloves at the age of 37 without much cricket behind him.
Associate player to look out for:
The left-arm seamer from Netherlands, Fred Klaasen has been making rapid strides in his career. He maintained an economy of 7.9 across 30 T20s in 2022. He is the most lethal in the powerplay where he averages 22 runs per wicket at an economy of 5.9, both his least across phases in 2022.
Best XI: Chirag Suri, Robin Uthappa/Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Joe Root, Rovman Powell ( c ), Sikandar Raza, Dasun Shanaka, Fabian Allen, Isuru Udana, Akif Raja, Fred Klaasen, Mujeeb Ur Rahman
(Dasun Shanaka and Chamika Karunaratne are currently on national duty and are expected to miss Dubai’s first two fixtures)
First Match: Dubai Capitals will feature in the lung opener, playing a home game against Abu Dhabi Knight Riders on January 13.