Associate member players to get more opportunity in 2nd edition of GT20 Canada - Images courtesy ICC Online Media Zone, USA Cricket (@usacricket) & The Namibian (@TheNamibian)

The landscape of opportunities for Associate member nation players have been on a slow but steady shift in the global supply chain of T20 franchise-based Leagues.

Considering the amount of raw talent and skilled professionals available in Associate nations, it often comes as a surprise that very few get opportunities to play in the bigger T20 leagues. It still remains a challenge for Associate players to crack the draft stages of bigger T20 Leagues like IPL, PSL, CPL, Big Bash etc. The opportunities have been there for 2-3 players in the past couple of seasons, but a major breakthrough in terms of numbers will take its own time to formulate.

However, times are changing a bit and players from Associate countries can actually look upto some T20 leagues played across the globe for opportunities to play and get more regular opportunities to get scouted and shortlisted for bigger T20 leagues. The emergence of franchise-based T20 leagues in Canada, Ireland-Scotland-Netherlands combined, Hong Kong and Nepal are some of the platforms in the current market, that caters to their needs of playing and television exposure.

We list some of the notable ones in this article:

1) HKT20 Blitz – Cricket Hong Kong’s premier T20 league could be summed up as one of the leading Associate T20 league among the bigger sharks in the ocean. The event concluded it’s 3rd edition in Feb 2018 and has garnered rave reviews from players and administrators associated with the sport from across the globe. 2018 edition saw Scotland’s Kyle Coetzer re-signing with City Kaitak and Roelof van der Merwe from Netherlands coming to play.

However, the 2019 edition is in danger of being scrapped due to packed International schedule for Hong Kong national squad players from Oct-Dec 2019 and the franchise owners are preparing to have talks with Cricket Hong Kong (CHK) to find a resolution to the matter.

The 2018 edition saw the bigger names in International circuit also turning up in big numbers for the event, thus increasing the marketability value of HKT20 Blitz to another level. With ICC U19 World Cup Broadcast production company, Sunset+Vine also getting involved with Blitz, the tournament hopefully will grow from strength to strength in the next editions (if 2019 is cancelled) with more interest from overseas professionals to come and play in Hong Kong.

2) Everest Premier League (EPLT20) – The benchmark franchise-based T20 league in Nepal will enter it’s 4th edition in Feb-Mar 2020 and saw a host of International players from Hong Kong, Ireland, Scotland and Netherlands take part in the 2018 edition of the tournament at Tribhuvan University Ground in Kirtipur.

Added features of worldwide and digital broadcast, coupled with color commentary from personnel from Ireland and New Zealand, along with local journalists ensured a widespread reach in the 2018 edition. The tournament provides Nepal players (International & Domestic) much needed cricket action, otherwise in a non-existent domestic structure due to continued suspension of their cricket board.

3) Dhangadhi Premier League (DPLT20) – Another private T20 league from Nepal, DPL was hosted for the first time in 2017 and concluded its 2nd edition in 2018. The ICC approved event saw UAE national squad captain, Rohan Mustafa, turning up for the competition along with country-mate Ashfaq Ahmed. Domestic players from India, who took part in Everest Premier League earlier, were also seen making a comeback for DPL. With Nepal now hosting two different T20 tournaments in a calendar year and with the country’s status as an ODI nation, the future looks bright for the T20 leagues in the country, with more participation expected from overseas professionals in the future editions.

4) US Open T20 – A tournament played for the past 10 years has gone unnoticed to the audiences globally in the past but the 2017 edition saw Cricket Council USA (CCUSA) promote the event in a bigger way with more players from West Indies & Canada taking part along with US domestic talent.

The 2018 edition saw bigger participation from International players from West Indies, South Africa, Scotland and others in the only approved T20 league in the US by ICC, which has been a strategic factor in the growth and popularisation of the sport in the US. The 2018 edition also got TV coverage for sub-continent viewers along with US and Caribbean region and was also broadcast on YouTube.

5) Global T20 Canada league – Garnered much interest after then-banned Australian national captain, Steve Smith, was seen playing in the inaugural edition of the league along with David Warner. A good amount of players from Hong Kong, UAE, Nepal and USA were chosen in the squads for various franchises along with Canadian players and got good enough exposure in some of the matches, but with no mandatory ruling of having a set quota of Associate players in the starting XI advised by the organisers, even the coaches of some of the franchise teams were baffled.

However, the 2019 edition saw the tournament being more inclusive of Associate member nation players with players from UAE, Scotland, Nepal, Netherlands, Hong Kong, USA, Namibia and hosts Canada lining up a major part of the playing XI’s of each franchise teams throughout the tournament.

The league has been broadcast in various global regions via TV network deals and will probably break-even and start making profits from the 3rd or 4th editions.

6) Euro T20 Slam – The brainchild of the same organisers behind GT20 Canada in collaboration with cricket boards of Ireland, Scotland and Netherlands have opened up the doors to the local and international talent in the above mentioned countries with the newly formulated 6-team franchise based T20 league, to be played across all the 3 countries.

With some of the big International professionals from Australia, Pakistan, South Africa, New Zealand and others already on board after the players draft, the local players of Ireland, Scotland and Netherlands will benefit in a much required broader way to develop and popularise the sport in their respective countries.

Among others, there are franchise-based T20 leagues in Norway and Singapore, which attracts some Associate member talent to take part in them. The T10 league is also a new entrant into the markets and UAE Cricket Board is definitely looking to grow the tournament in the coming years and ensuring that 2 UAE national players are mandatory to play in the starting XI for all the teams in the league.

Emirates Cricket Board are already planning to launch their own franchise-based T20 league in 2020, with USA cricket also planning to stage their own League in 2021.

The landscape is growing but the opportunities are definitely on the rise in the future for T20 leagues across the globe.

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