Ireland is set to become the latest Full Member country to have its own T20 League with some of the world’s leading players taking part in a franchise competition, possibly as early as this year.

High-level talks have been going on involving Cricket Ireland, Cricket Scotland and the KNCB (Netherlands) for a competition which would involve at least two teams from each of the three countries played over three weeks.

The competition would be backed and organised by Indian sports marketing company Mercuri – approached by Cricket Ireland - who have proposed that teams would be allowed up to seven overseas players in each squad and names already mentioned include New Zealanders Brendon McCullum, Luke Ronchi, from Pakistan Babar Azam and Shadab Khan, from Zimbabwe Brendan Taylor and Imran Tahir from South Africa.

Cricket Ireland Performance Director Richard Holdsworth said last night that all three boards were considering the proposals and if agreement is reached there could be confirmation of the tournament by the end of this month.

“If there are six teams, it would allow the top 16 T20 players in Ireland to play with and against some of the top cricketers in the world which can only help their game,” said Holdsworth.

“Currently Paul Stirling and to a lesser extent Kevin O’Brien are the only Ireland players involved in the increasing number of T20 competitions which are taking place all over the world. Indeed, Ireland is the last Full Member not to have one.”

A six-team tournament would give each team 10 matches (playing each other twice), probably followed by semi-finals and a final. Initial plans are for the tournament to begin at the end of August, going into September and would be perfect preparation for the T20 World Cup qualifiers which begin in October.
The venue for that tournament – likely to be Dubai – will be announced at the ICC Board meeting on February 27.

Meanwhile, Stirling gets his first taste of captaincy tomorrow when Ireland return to action for the first time since they lost to Afghanistan in Belfast in August.

A 15-man squad is in Oman for a quadrangular tournament, coincidentally against Scotland and Netherlands and the hosts which starts next Wednesday but Ireland have two warm-up matches against an Oman Development XI tomorrow and Saturday.

Stirling has been appointed as stand-in T20 captain for Gary Wilson who misses the tournament and the upcoming tour to India to face Afghanistan with an eye problem.

This week’s games, when all 15 players are expected to be involved, will determine the starting line-up for the first tournament game against Oman and a chance for the two uncapped players, Instonians all-rounder Shane Getkate and Ireland Wolves captain Harry Tector to impress. Both starred with the bat against the white ball in last month’s Wolves tour to Sri Lanka