<br>One of the firms has been USA-based private equity firm Lancer Capital, who picked a franchise in the ILT20 and named it ‘Desert Vipers’. Its chairman, Avram Glazer, is part of the family which owns the American football team Tampa Bay Buccaneers and English Premier League side Manchester United, marking it the firm’s first foray into the cricketing world.<br> <br>To ensure that the side puts up a good show in their first outing in ILT20, the Vipers have roped in two-time ODI World Cup-winner and highly-experienced coach Tom Moody as the Director of Cricket. Moody, the former coach of IPL 2016 winners Sunrisers Hyderabad, speaks exclusively to IANS on ILT20, building a team from scratch and much more.
<br>Q. How do you think the upcoming ILT20 can boost the growth of cricket in the UAE?
<br>A. I think it’s a very important step that’s been taken by having a league of its own in the UAE. We’ve seen historically, many major events and tournaments take place in the UAE with great success. But we haven’t seen anything that is embraced by the local talent.<br> <br>So to have a franchise tournament that is doing that, I think it’s a really important step in the growth of cricket and the cricketers in the region. So, it’s great to be involved with the Desert Vipers, which is one of the teams that is very enthusiastic about embracing that community.
<br>Q. You are building a T20 side from scratch in a brand new T20 league. What have been the challenges for you as well as head coach James Foster in creating a side from the word go, as compared to other sides like MI Emirates, Abu Dhabi Knight Riders, and Dubai Capitals, who have people with previous experience of running T20 teams in other leagues, mainly the IPL?
A. It’s been an interesting process because the league itself is obviously newly formed. There’s a lot of competition for talent, obviously with six teams, not only in this league. But simultaneously, we’ve seen South Africa launch a T20 tournament themselves (SA20) in a similar window.
So there’s been a lot of competition with regards to identifying and securing international talent. We feel at the Vipers, we’ve done a good job in doing that. We’ve got some high-profile, high-quality players amongst our team that has international and franchise experience.
Obviously, with three of the teams having IPL backgrounds, they have, I suppose, the advantage of understanding the cricketing landscape as a business because they’ve been involved in it for a long time.<br> <br>But one thing that we have at Desert Vipers, and we were lucky enough to sort of get that in place early was get a management team together that has got that international and franchise experience.<br> <br>So it’s not like we’re going into this tournament any less prepared than any other franchise team. Because we’ve got the necessary experience on board.
<br>Q. In the Desert Vipers side, you have got Sri Lanka’s leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga and Alex Hales, someone who was a vital cog in the wheel for England winning the T20 World Cup. How pleasing was it to draft these two in-form T20 stars for the inaugural edition of ILT20?
A. We are obviously thrilled to have the players of that calibre, Hasaranga and Hales. Also, Tom Curran and many more players who have international exposure and experience. I suppose one of the real appeals for us as a team and a franchise is that we’re a new team.
We’re a team that has got ownership, that has exposure in other international sport arena. So there is expertise and passion for this sport. The ownership have made it very clear that they’re very keen to be engaged and involved in cricket and the future of cricket. So, people like myself as the director of cricket, the coaching staff and the players are excited to be part of that journey.
<br>Q. Desert Vipers also has Namibia left-arm pacer Ruben Trumpelmann as one of the two associate players in the squad alongside Scotland left-arm spinner Mark Watt. How exciting is it for you to have players from associate nations like Trumpelmann and Watt in the side?<br> <br>A. Absolutely, it’s great that the (players from) associated nations are involved in this tournament. Because as we’ve seen in the recent (T20) World Cup, they’re punching above their weight in many regards and have created some of the biggest upsets of the recent World Cup.<br> <br>So to have two associate members in each squad, I think is a really important step in the growth of those players and the associate nations because, as we know, we’re constantly looking to grow the game on a global basis. Being involved in a tournament with many high-class international players like Trumplemann and others will only benefit from the exposure and experience of being involved in this professional environment.
<br>Q. With so many international stars coming to the UAE for the ILT20, where do you think the standard of the tournament is in terms of players as compared to the other leagues? I know, it’s still early days, but can you give some thoughts on this?
A. It’s obviously early days, as we are yet to see a bowl in the tournament. But certainly looking at the talent pool that has been attracted to the ILT20, it’s quite an impressive and significant group of players that have been attracted to the tournament with six teams.<br> <br>It also presents a high-quality condensed competition. With the rules around nine internationals in each playing eleven, and two UAE players, I think you’ll find a very high standard of cricket, purely on that basis of the ratio of overseas players that are playing.<br> <br>So, to compare it with other franchise tournaments around the world, I think it’s too early to make any comparison. But certainly looking at the venues where this tournament is going to be played. Looking at the number of international stars that are lining up to play, I think we’re in for a very, very good tournament.
<br>Q. With the batters in Desert Vipers like Hales, Colin Munro, Sam Billings, and Ben Duckett, how important is that dynamic element in the batting line-up to succeed in the UAE conditions?
A. Obviously, conditions play a big part in the brand of cricket we want to play. But also, our players need to adjust to those conditions like, I don’t anticipate in January-February, we’re going to have pretty good batting conditions. It’s not an overly hot climate at that time of year in the UAE which can be at other times of the year.<br> <br>So I’d imagine the surfaces that we’re playing on are going to be pretty good. We’ve got players as you’ve mentioned, that have got experience and exposure in playing in the UAE. So they’ve had past experiences of playing in the three venues that the tournament will be played in. So, nothing is going to be too big a surprise for them. They’re going to be pretty familiar with their surroundings.
<br>Q. How different is your current role as director of cricket at Desert Vipers as compared to other roles you previously held as head coach or of the same designation in other franchise T20 leagues?
A. It’s always interesting taking on a new challenge. I’ve been involved as a director of cricket in a couple of different cricketing roles over the years. So I have got a good understanding of what the responsibilities are. Like, what are the key important things to be mindful of in that role.<br> <br>From a coaching perspective, your hands are very much on the tools so to speak, and you’re very much directly involved with the players and team strategy and preparing the players for match days and training days.<br> <br>As director of cricket, you obviously sit above that and make sure you get the right personnel in place to be able to conduct a highly professional environment. You’re also there as someone that’s got experience in franchise cricket for many years. So, any member of the support staff or playing stuff for that matter can lean on to get any advice or direction if required.
Cricket fans in India and the world can watch ILT20 on ZEE Network and its streaming platform ZEE5.