With the inaugural Abu Dhabi T20 Tournament less than a month away, the anticipation for the latest addition to the international franchise calendar is very high.
Former Proteas opening batsman Gary Kirsten is playing a pivotal role developing cricket in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as he looks to rejuvenate cricket interest in the region. Kirsten has rolled out an academy in the Emirates, and he has big hopes for the upcoming tournament.
"There is a lot of interest in cricket in that region and with Dubai having such a strong cricket following, Abu Dhabi has followed suit in that regard," Kirsten explained.
“We have an agreement with Abu Dhabi cricket to run coaching programmes at the Zayed Cricket Stadium. We tied up with their main cricket academy, and we have placed someone full-time to run that programme. So we’ve made a significant commitment to be involved in the development of cricket in Abu Dhabi.”
Kirsten has become something of a cricketing messiah since he finished playing, and has coached both the national teams of South Africa and India, who he led to a memorable ICC Cricket World Cup win in 2011.
Now, he has turned his attention to an emerging cricket nation, looking to inspire a fresh generation of stars.
“We’re in the middle of a cricket revolution. T20 cricket is taking over the world - it’s entertaining, exciting to watch and it really appeals to the modern generation of people. It’s particularly exciting to see the development of the game, so hopefully that continues and further builds interest in the game.”
The inaugural Abu Dhabi T20 Tournament will see the Multiply Titans locking horns with the likes of the Hobart Hurricanes, the Lahore Qalanders, the Yorkshire Vikings, Afghanistan's Boost Defenders, and an all-star UAE team which is yet to be announced. The collection of stars is anticipated to attract big interest amongst locals.
“It’s great exposure for the game in that region as to what is possible. Hosting a T20 tournament will definitely generate interest in cricket. If any young player has aspirations to play the game at the next level, having competitions of this nature on his doorstep will give him the additional motivation to go for it," Kirsten pointed out.
The diversity of the competition, with franchises from around the world, make it a unique offering. In days gone by, only the T20 Champions League afforded domestic franchises the opportunity to test their mettle, and the Abu Dhabi T20 Tournament brings that intrigue back again.
“It’s great to have several franchises from around the world involved a competition like this. The Multiply Titans has been the most successful franchise in South Africa for a number of years now and having Mark Boucher’s team commit to this tournament adds massive value to the credibility of the competition,” Kirsten said of the Titans' commitment to the tournament.
The Abu Dhabi T20 Tournament will be held on 4-6 October, at the 20 000-seater Zayed Cricket Stadium. For more information visit www.abudhabit20.ae