New formats for the game are being introduced in cricket at a ferocious rate but the latest of them promises to be the most unique one just yet.
Set to arrive on the shores of Dubai in February next year, the Ultimate Kricket Challenge (UKC) promises to deliver one of the most innovative fan experiences, with some of cricket’s biggest stars poised to go one-on-one against each other in a ‘cage match’.
Universe Boss Chris Gayle, India sensation Yuvraj Singh, Pakistan maverick Shahid Afridi, England’s swashbuckling Kevin Pietersen and Windies’ star Andre Russell are some of the big names that will lend their participation to the maiden edition of the UKC in Dubai.
Set to be staged at the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai, fans will get front row seats to get up close and personal to the action as the superstars battle it out in a cage in the UKC.
Some of the match-ups in the five-day event will see the Ind-Pak rivalry reignited with Yuvraj set to go head-to-head against Yuvraj while Gayle will be paired against Pietersen.
Each innings will consist of 30 deliveries while some unique and innovative rules mentioned below are set to ensure that the action is as pulsating as it gets. Like the Indian Premier League (IPL), the UKC will combine the best of cricket and entertainment with several Bollywood stars set to grace the event for some live concert-style performances.
Yuvraj and Gayle were on hand at the Coca-Cola Arena on Thursday to announce the launch of the latest cricket competition.
While both the players picked Test cricket as their most challenging format in cricket, their excitement to turn out in the UKC was evident.
“I cannot wait to have a practice run (in the new format),” said Gayle about the UKC.
“It’s a new and exciting format and its growth will depend on how we start the first edition,” said Yuvraj on his part.
Substitute players are not allowed except when the player decides to use his Wildcard. If a player is injured and cannot continue, the result of the game will be awarded to the opposing player.
Tickets will be available soon on BOOKMYSHOW.COM and CocaColaArena.com
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Plenty of big names are missing from both sides as India and Bangladesh prepare to battle in a three-match T20I series which gets under way in New Delhi on Sunday.
Skipper Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja are the big absentees for India, while Bangladesh will be without the banned Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal and promising all-rounder Mohammad Saifuddin.
In their absences, there will be a chance for the youngsters and newcomers to leave a mark and there is plenty of talent there for both sides to feel excited about.
Here, we look at six such players from both sides who will be worth keeping an eye on in the three clashes.
The all-rounder has found chances hard to come by in the Indian Premier League (IPL), but his displays for Mumbai and India A have been enough for the selectors to hand him a maiden international call-up.
With all-rounder Hardik Pandya sidelined for a significant period with a back injury, Dube provides India with a like-for-like replacement who can deliver the big hits with the bat while also bowling some useful medium pace.
The left-handed batsman has a domestic T20 strike-rate of more than 142 and he could be a really handy option to have for India if he can replicate the same at the international level.
The Kerala wicketkeeper batsman has always oozed talent and ability ever since he broke out as a T20 star in the IPL for Rajasthan Royals. However, consistency has continued to elude him at all levels and that is the reason why he has been able to make just the one previous T20I appearance for India.
That appearance came all the way back in July, 2015 and Samson is now back in the fold after his stunning double-ton in a recent Vijay Hazare Trophy clash. With Rishabh Pant constantly misfiring for India in the shorter formats, Samson now has an excellent opportunity to seize his chance as the team’s wicketkeeper batsman.
India recalling Shardul Thakur for the series should be a wake-up call for Khaleel Ahmed who has failed to really kick on in the T20I format. The left-armed seamer has made 11 appearances for India in the format previously but he has been highly expensive with an economy-rate nearing nine.
Ahmed has shown he can be an effective wicket-taking option in T20s with his performances for Sunrisers Hyderabad in IPL 2019, but he now needs to do it for India with time fast running out for the 21-year-old.
Liton Das’ sublime ton against India in the 2018 Asia Cup final will not be forgotten by the hosts and the Bangladesh opener definitely has the ability to do it on a more consistent basis.
With Tamim Iqbal absent for the series, Das needs to step out from the shadows and play a leading role for the visitors. His T20I strike-rate of 138.22 is an excellent one but he must back it up with bigger scores if Bangladesh are to take anything away from the tour.
He is coming off an attacking ton for Rangpur Division in Bangladesh’s domestic List A tournament and that should stand him in good stead for the series.
As Bangladesh grapple with the ban to star all-rounder Shakib, it is an excellent opportunity for young Afif Hossain to step up. The 20-year-old all-rounder has already made five previous T20 appearances for Bangladesh since making his debut last year and he put in some promising displays in the recent series against Afghanistan and Zimbabwe.
He can bowl some handy off-spin while he is also a useful batsman down the order.
His recent displays for Bangladesh A have earned young Mohammad Naim a maiden international call-up and the top-order batsman’s good form augurs well for his chances in India.
He registered two well-made fifties in the recent series against Sri Lanka A and the left-hander could be the long-term replacement for Tamim if he can continue to build on his initial promise.
He is only 20 and has plenty of time on his side to further his growing reputation.
Preparations for next year’s T20 World Cup will be in high on the minds of both India and Bangladesh as they prepare to lock horns in a three-match T20 series beginning in New Delhi on Sunday. However, it is the hazardous air quality of India’s capital which has dominated the headlines in the lead up to the series opener.
With memories of Sri Lanka’s players vomiting on the field at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium nearly a year ago still fresh, the spotlight will firmly remain on the air pollution when the two teams take the field on Sunday.
The game is still set to go ahead despite the alarming pollution levels, and as such, the two sets of players will need to switch their attentions to the cricket on the pitch as they look to make a winning start in the series.
Life without Shakib starts now for the Tigers
With all the discussions surrounding the air quality in Delhi, it has become easy to forget that Bangladesh have arrived in India on the back of a major setback. With their star player and T20 skipper Shakib Al Hasan set to miss an entire year of cricket due to his suspension, life is going to get exponentially tougher for the Tigers as they look to build a squad for next year’s T20 World Cup.
It would be hard for any team to replace an all-rounder ranked No1 and No2 in the ODI and T20 formats respectively, doubly so for Bangladesh who are already reeling with the absence of other senior players. Opening stalwart Tamim Iqbal has pulled out of the tour while talented all-rounder Mohammad Saifuddin is out with an injury.
With three key players unavailable, it will be up to the likes of newly-appointed skipper Mahmudullah, wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim and opening batsman Liton Das to step up for the visitors. Their T20 record against India is an unenviable one as it is, with the Tigers finishing on the losing side in all eight previous clashes.
India look to continue new attacking approach
There has been a marked change in tack from India in the shortest format with the Men in Blue taking a cue from England’s 2019 World Cup-winning squad. Packing the side with capable batsmen down the order is the new approach with India using that strategy in the recent series against South Africa and West Indies.
While previously India would look towards their formidable top-three to do the bulk of the run-scoring, costly defeats in the semi-final and final stages of big tournaments seems to have forced the team management to reconsider.
The new strategy revolves around taking the game to the opposition bowlers from the get-go, with the team not changing its approach even if they lose early wickets.
It will be interesting to see if the hosts stick to their new handbook against Bangladesh with the likes of Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja rested for the series.
New faces in in the spotlight for hosts
As India continue to experiment with their T20 side, there are a couple of new faces in the squad who could find themselves in the playing XI for Sunday’s clash. All-rounder Shivam Dube has been handed a maiden call-up with Hardik Pandya recuperating from a back surgery, while wicketkeeper batsman Sanju Samson has returned to the T20I fold after a four-year absence.
The 26-year-old Dube has been a consistent performer on the domestic circuit as a big-hitting lower-order batsman who can bowl some handy medium pace. The Mumbai man seems like a certainty to make his India debut in New Delhi but the team management have a tough decision in picking one of Samson or Rishabh Pant.
Pant has failed to take his chances in limited-overs games for India with the southpaw averaging a paltry 20.30 after 20 appearances. With his talent undeniable, the 22-year-old should and will, in all likelihood, get a longer rope to establish him claim. However, the team management will want to have an alternative at hand should Pant fail, and as such, expect Samson to feature in the playing XI instead at some point in the series.