LAHORE: The inaugural edition of the United Arab Emirates T20 League, formally christened International League T20 [ILT20], will not take place this year as anticipated, but between January 6 and February 12 next year. That, however, raises the prospects of a jam-packed southern-hemisphere winter schedule and an intense battle for the world’s best T20 players. As things stand, the Big Bash League, the Bangladesh Premier League, and the proposed new South African league, all are scheduled to run over that window; the eighth edition of the Pakistan Super League is tentatively scheduled to start just days after the ILT20’s finish. The six-team ILT20 is expected to have 34 matches, with each team playing the others twice in the league, followed by four playoff matches. The South African league, CSA’s third attempt at launching a T20 competition after the failed Global League T20 in 2017 and the now-defunct Mzansi Super League is expected to start in January, though dates for it have not been made public yet. The BBL is expected to take place in a window between December and January – last season, it started on December 5, 2021 and ended on January 28, 2022. And the next BPL is scheduled for January-February 2023. The ILT20 can be expected to attract a fair share of the best players, partly because of its line-up of team owners: Reliance Strategic Business Ventures Limited, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries Limited, the owners of Mumbai Indians, GMR Group, co-owners of Delhi Capitals, the Knight Riders [Kolkata and Trinbago] franchise owners, Capri Global, a non-banking financial company based in India, Lancer Capital, owners of Manchester United Football Club, and Adani Sportsline, a sports initiative of the diversified Adani Group. There have been indications already that teams in the ILT20 could recruit a number of players from their IPL teams. Additionally, the owners of Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings, Delhi Capitals and Rajasthan Royals, along with a consortium led by Kevin Pietersen, are also understood to be interested in buying teams in the South African T20 league. Having such partners “bodes well for the UAE T20 League,” Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, the chairman of the Emirates Cricket Board, said in a statement on Monday, adding, “I am confident that together we will achieve new heights and in the process provide entertainment and excitement to the millions of fans around the globe who are waiting for the first ball of the UAE T20 League to be bowled”. And while the packed calendar could force a number of top T20 players to choose between franchises in different parts of the world, it could lead to a big opportunity for local UAE-based cricketers.