A desire to create a unique competition is one of the reasons behind the introduction of the Abu Dhabi T20, which Yorkshire are taking part in this weekend.
The six-team, three-day event is also part celebrations for the Year of Zayed, which is taking place to celebrate the late former president of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed.
Matthew Jackson, managing director of Sporta Group, who are helping to organise the event, is fully expecting an exciting weekend of cricket.
“One of the attractions of European football, albeit a different code, is that you may see someone like an Ajax run away with the Dutch League, but when they come up against a team from Spain you really see how good they are,” he said.
“That’s what we’re trying to do with this event.
“How would Yorkshire do against Hobart Hurricanes from the Big Bash League?
“It gives us a gauge on how good the T20 Blast is and how good the Big Bash is.
“That’s not been done for some time.
“There are plenty of T20 leagues around at the moment, but we wanted to create something unique.
“The government who are backing this in Abu Dhabi are looking for this to be at least a three-year event, so there’s something to build on.
“Sporta is just part of a larger team running the event. We are doing a lot of the logistics, moving teams around etc. The guys at the Abu Dhabi Cricket Club are also doing a lot of work.
“This year is named as the year of Zayed in the UAE, and if Sheikh Zayed, the father of the nation, had been alive – he was the president of Abu Dhabi as well – he would have been 100 years old this year.
It’s a special year for the UAE, and in particular Abu Dhabi. There is a series of events going on, and this is part of that.
Jackson and Sporta have helped attract teams from Afghanistan, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa to compete alongside the Vikings from Thursday to Saturday, with a number of big-named players involved.
Jackson continued: “There’s always challenges with international players, and Yorkshire are missing some of theirs due to England’s tour of Sri Lanka. But there are still some star names.
“The Titans will be bringing a very strong side.
“All the teams are very keen to win because there’s a decent prize fund.
“From day one, when they agreed to take part, Yorkshire also made it clear ‘We’re not coming for a jolly or a holiday’. The players are giving up the first week of their off season and are intending to win, as are all the other teams.
“The Afghans are particularly keen to show how good their domestic cricket is.
“There will be some tired legs, but also some fresh ones without a great deal of cricket in them.
“Auckland are flying halfway around the world and fly straight back to play their first domestic red ball game against Wellington only a couple of days afterwards.
“The Titans have just been on pre-season in the Seychelles.
“It will be fascinating to see how they all compete.
“It’s about the only time of the year we could run it when teams are available just before the start of the Southern Hemisphere season and straight after the English season.”
Sporta are a Sussex-based tour group with a huge presence in the UAE, but they take counties and schools on tours to all parts of the world.
They helped facilitate Yorkshire’s two champion county tours in 2015 and 2016 and are overseeing the England Lions tour of the UAE in November and December.
“We’re really pleased to be involved in it and running the event. It’s something we’ve been planning for the last year, and it’s good to see it finally come to fruition,” added Jackson.
“Our company originated by taking counties on pre-season tours to that part of that of the world, and we’ve been involved in doing that for the last 12 years.
“Our first tour we took to Abu Dhabi was Essex nearly 13 years ago, and that side had a very young Alastair Cook alongside Andy Flower and James Foster.
“James is actually going to be coaching the Afghan side this weekend.
“That was our first foray over there, and it’s still an important place for us to take county and school sides.
“The facilities are world-class and the weather is perfect to play cricket in for the vast majority of the year.”