Imagine the fiery Australian pace duo of Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lillee steaming in on the bouncy Western Australia Cricket Association (WACA) pitch in Perth against an attacking Viv Richards from the West Indies. Or for that matter, West Indies pacer Curtly Ambrose, who has an economy rate of under 3.50 in ODIs, taking on the mighty force of today’s modern bats. These are some of the prospects that will excite the current spectators in a Twenty20 format.
Pakistan great Wasim Akram, himself a menacing bowler in his playing days and a World Cup winner, spoke of the players who have not have played T20 but wanted to see them in the shortest version of the game.
“A lot of the players have retired before this T20 format. If I have to watch any player bowl in T20, it has got to be Dennis Lillee or Jeff Thomson. Imagine Lillee running in to bowl in a T20 game at the WACA and the batsman to face him would be the one and only Viv Richards. I would love to see them play this format,” Akram, one of the icon players of the Masters Champions League (MCL) that will be played in the UAE in February 2016, said.
Former Australia wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist, another MCL icon, added: “A guy that may well be in this league and very difficult to get even 12 runs an over off him would be Curtly Ambrose. It will be very difficult to score (off him) three or four boundaries in an over in a T20 game. He will be great to see.”
The MCL, which will see retired international players with a minimum of five Tests, ODIs or T20Is, in action in a franchise-type league. However, there will not be an exodus of retirements, felt the greats.
Gilchrist, 43, said: “I would not think players will prematurely retire to get into this league. It will be an option post more traditional careers. What is a traditional career now-a-days? I guess we come from the era of that more traditional career but now-a-days with so many leagues around and so many options to play, it is very exciting and T20 cricket has changed the look of the game, the feel of the game. I would not suspect anyone to retire prematurely just to be in this league.”
Akram added: “Nobody is retiring now. It is going to go on. It is a long-term plan. Let’s hope the first year is a success and everybody is looking good and obviously give their 100 per cent.”
Left-handed batting genius from the West Indies and another MCL icon, Brian Lara, said that recently retired players could be attracted to this league. “Jacques Kallis (one of the four MCL icons) is recently retired and has had a taste of T20. You are not going to have that amount of players who are going to move from playing Test cricket to 50 overs and who don’t know what T20 is about. Ricky Ponting, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, these are the players who will be very much attracted to playing this kind of a league.”
Akram welcomed Pakistan’s Misbah-ul-Haq, who retired from all formats after this year’s World Cup, to this league. “Misbah will be more than welcome to join us. It will be fun and exciting. We will be more professional and by the time we start, we will be physically and mentally sound and give our 100 per cent. I am looking forward to it.”
Asked if it would be difficult for players to make the adjustments as most retired cricketers would not have had a taste of T20, Gilchrist said: “As we are seeing in the T20 tournaments around the world, the top players make the adjustments and are successful in all the formats. It is going to be a challenge for those guys. Am sure they have observed enough T20 cricket to know how to go about it, what the game plans are and the ways to approach it. Am sure they will fit in, there will be room for all types of players.”
Akram said that the MCL was in a way a revival of the veterans’ cricket that was played over 50 overs and discontinued some years ago. “Some of the retired players are lucky to get jobs like commentating and coaching. But most of them are struggling. The idea is these guys can always come back and earn the buck from the sport they always loved,” the 49-year-old Akram said.
Lara, who has played in Sharjah when limited-overs were a regular in that part of the world those days, said he looked forward to playing again in the UAE. “UAE is a wonderful place to play cricket. Back in those days, we had huge crowd especially when West indies played Pakistan or India. I enjoyed my time in Sharjah and am looking forward to early next year when I will return for this version of the game and hopefully we will have the same sort of spectator interest,” the 46-year-old Lara said.