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'5 leagues across the globe': How Abu Dhabi T10 COO plans to conquer the world

Rajeev Khanna, the COO of the Abu Dhabi T10 Cricket League, lays out his plans to make cricket's fastest format a global phenomenon.

5 leagues across the globe: How Abu Dhabi T10 COO plans to conquer the world
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Rajeev Khanna (right), the COO of the league, at the flagging off of the Abu Dhabi T10 League's 2022 season

By

Saketh Ayyagari

Updated: 2022-11-27T15:24:18+05:30

Abu Dhabi: The Abu Dhabi T10 League, the biggest vehicle so far for cricket's youngest and fastest format, is in full sway in the UAE.

The Bridge dropped in at the Zayed Stadium here to understand the place of this format in the future and whether it could be the only way to make cricket accessible to a global audience through the Olympics. On the sidelines of one of the matches, this reporter spoke to Rajeev Khanna, the Chief Operating Officer of the Abu Dhabi T10 league.

Also associated with some of the world's most exciting leagues such as the Indian Premier League, Pro Kabaddi League and International Tennis Premier League, Khanna, a former cricketer himself, laid out his plans to make the T10 format a global phenomenon.

Excerpts:

Q. The T20 format is still relatively new, it continues to grow. Now T10 is the next format which has come through. Where do you see T10 find its space as the fourth format?

T20 is still relatively now, around fifteen years old now. But T10 has a lot of scope to grow too. If you see the Olympics, T10 is the most desirable product for the future. It's fast-paced. It's 90 minutes. It is entertaining. This is the reason T10 will have its own space in the the current sports market.

What T10 also does is it can the provide the talent for T20. T20 is right at the top, no doubt about it. But T10 could be that that platform which would provide the talent to T20. Stars of T10 would become future stars of T20 - like Liam Livingstone did.

The product has meat in it. It is how and where you market it. The whole idea of of our company is to take T10 and make it a global product.

Q. Why do you say T10 has the best chance of taking the sport to the Olympics?

If you ever see any other sports in the Olympics, they're all of short spans - football, hockey. No sport in Olympics is more than 90 minutes. T10 is that format for cricket.

Also, it becomes difficult for the organisers to find the days and venues for T20s. In T10, you see three matches in a day All of that combined together makes it a product which can be actually be a product for future in the Olympics.

Q. How do you see T10 attract players, audiences and even broadcast and sponsors? What are the challenges?

I'll give you an example from this year's Abu Dhabi T10. We had 1600 registration in the draft. T10 is the only format where you have nine international players playing in a team. It gives that employment opportunity to cricketers across the globe.

Also, all the cricketers I have spoken to love this format. They love the entertainment, they love the fun. The leagues are usually between 10 to 15 days. I love T20 as a format, but it sometimes takes a toll on the player if the league is for two-three months. This format, you have a maximum of two venues, and it quickly finishes.

Liam Livingstone's exploits in the Abu Dhabi T10 League made him an exciting prospect for England in 2021. Following that, he has also become an IPL superstar.

Q. And for the broadcasters and sponsors?

If you have good cricketers participating, good owners being there - it attracts crowds, it attracts the broadcasters, also drives the sponsor.

Q. Abu Dhabi T10 League has been here since 2017, it now attracts some of the best talents. What do you see as the next step for the league?

We want to make this league a global league. We have signed with Sri Lanka to do a Lanka T10 next year in June, which is the first full member board to sign a T10 league contract. This endorses the format. UAE is an affiliate member of the ICC, but Sri Lanka is a full member Test-playing country. We have plans to run a league in Africa, in Zimbabwe. The plan is to expand the league globally so that there are five - if not more - leagues across the globe.

Q. Will one of those leagues be in India?

India I cannot say. BCCI's approval is required. We would love to do it and we would request BCCI and see if that can happen. The future will tell us about that.

Q. When can we see a women's T10?

In June next year, there will be a women's T10. The Sri Lanka T10 will have men and women, both.

Q. Since you previously worked with the IPL, how do you see the evolution of T20 in India in terms of audience, grass roots and revenue? And how does that compare to the T10 format? Do you see any parallels, or is T10's journey a little faster?

People took T20 as the future of Indian cricket, and then it clicked. It gave employment to many cricketers who could not even dream of having an employment in sports. That helped take T20 in India and across the globe to where it is now. Again, the entertainment, the excitement of T20, all that together helped T20.

Q. Do you see this journey to be similar with the Women's IPL which coming up now?

Absolutely. It's a great step by BCCI. I congratulate everyone in the board. I believe women's cricket has a fantastic future.

Q. Could these new formats signal the death of ODI cricket in the future?

I think every format of cricket has its own place in this system. I don't see any format dying. All the formats will coexist, that's what I can say.

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