‘Wild west’: Cricket powers oppose lopsided rules for league that chased Warner

Cricket chiefs in multiple countries have raised vocal opposition to the lopsided overseas player rules of the UAE Twenty20 league that courted David Warner, amid fears the privately-owned event could split world cricket’s carefully regulated player market wide open.

Senior cricket sources in Australia, South Africa and England told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald they want the ICC to outlaw any Twenty20 competition that would allow clubs to stack teams with a majority of overseas players.

Overseas player have always been a feature of T20 leagues, but have never taken up more than half the spots in a team.Credit:BCCI

Warner is in talks with Cricket Australia for a big-money deal to bring him back to the Big Bash League after an absence of almost a decade, and his management has indicated he will no longer be going to the UAE. Ex-Brisbane Heat hitter Chris Lynn has also been courted by the UAE league’s organisers.

Unlike every other domestic Twenty20 league, including the BBL, the IPL, the Caribbean Premier League and the new South African competition, the UAE tournament has made provision for its teams to recruit as many as 12 overseas players in their squads. Nine are allowed in the playing XI at once, with only two local players required.

By contrast, no more than four overseas players at a time may be selected teams in any of the world’s established Twenty20 tournaments. These regulations mean that the host board of a competition must be developing enough local talent to ensure high-quality teams, while also limiting the number of overseas players able to be recruited.

Alongside the global system of “no objection certificates” handed out by boards to players, these regulations ensure that countries can still prioritise international matches in an increasingly crowded calendar.

Overseas Twenty20 player limits in squads and teams

  • BBL: Six contracted, three in playing XI
  • IPL: Eight contracted, four in playing XI
  • CPL: Five contracted, four in playing XI
  • PSL: Five contracted, four in playing XI
  • South Africa: Seven contracted, four in playing XI

Should the new league be allowed to go ahead under its existing regulations for overseas players, cricket authorities are concerned it would create a “wild west” market in which tournament organisers had very little need to develop players in the countries where they host events.

Incredibly, the overseas player regulations for the new UAE league were run past the ICC chief executives’ committee in November last year without much opposition. Sources with knowledge of the meeting told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald that only one board representative – West Indies CEO Johnny Grave – raised any objections to the rules at the time.

Even so, discussions of the new league’s parameters were a feature of talks between boards at the recent ICC annual conference in Birmingham, set against the backdrop of the Commonwealth Games.

There was surprise among member countries when they discovered the UAE league had recently been ratified by the ICC – a process largely dictated by the bona fides of any new league’s ownership – with the 9/2 overseas/local player ratio rules intact.

The league, sanctioned by the UAE cricket board but privately owned by two of its directors, has sold club franchises to six Indian backers, three of which already hold stakes in IPL teams.

Offering each club a salary cap of around $US2.5 million (about $3.6 million) per team, with a top contract value of as much as $US450,000, the tournament’s financial incentives for players would be comfortably the most lucrative outside of the IPL.

It is set to be played next year during a January-February window, placed in direct competition with the BBL, the South African league and the early rounds of the Pakistan Super League.

While there is clear opposition to the number of overseas places for players in the league, cordial talks continue between the UAE board and other nations, primarily around exact dates of the event.

The Pakistan board, meanwhile, is reportedly set to deny its players no objection certificates to go to the BBL this summer; there had been hopes that the likes of Babar Azam and Shaheen Afridi would take part in the tournament draft.

The ICC declined to comment.

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