Ger Siggins (The Times)
The glamorous world of Bollywood stars and IPL legends will find a temporary home in Europe's Celtic fringes this autumn, when the first Euro T20 Bash takes place in Amsterdam, Edinburgh and Dublin.
The tri-nation tournament, which will see six sides two each from Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands competing in three cities from August 30, was launched with gusto in Dublin yesterday.
It is safe to say nothing quite like it has ever been seen in Irish cricket circles, with Bollywood actress Yami Gautam unveiling the logo with a bang, a sand artist telling the story of European cricket, and Pakistan and Indian legends lending some gravitas to the occasion.
Wasim Akram and Dilip Vengsarkar unveiled six of the leading international stars who have been signed by the league, although who they play for will not be decided until a draft takes place over the summer. The "icon" players were revealed to be Australian Shane Watson, Brendon McCullum from New Zealand, and Afghanistan's Rashid Khan, the world No 1 T20 bowler. The first three "marquee" players were named as Chris Lynn (Australia), Babar Azam (Pakistan) and Luke Ronchi (New Zealand).
Before the one-day international against England on Friday, his 332nd cap for Ireland, Kevin O'Brien was still bubbling with enthusiasm for the autumn competition. "When you look at the calibre of players there, it's going to be very exciting to play with them," he said. "All going well, we'll have good weather and it will be a huge success.
"I've played with Luke Ronchi before and he just sent me a text saying See you in Dublin'."
O'Brien is not sure whether he will be drafted by the Belfast Titans or the Dublin Chiefs "obviously it would be great to play for your home city but we'll find out soon enough".
The tournament is the brainchild of Indian entrepreneurs Prashant Mishra and Amit Singh, of Woods Entertainment, with the backing of billionaire Gurmeet Singh of GS Holding Inc.
Mishra said: "We have been planning this day for a long time along with the cricket boards of Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands. In this World Cup year, the awareness and excitement around cricket will be immense. The Euro T20 Slam will be a perfect culmination for the most enthralling cricket season in the region."
The tournament will be played in each of the countries in turn, with the local derby kicking off each series so Amsterdam Kings play Rotterdam Rhinos on August 30, with ten games being played there until the tournament moves to Scotland, where Edinburgh Rocks take on Glasgow Giants in the first of the games at the Grange.
The Euro T20 Slam will arrive in Dublin on September 13, when Dublin Chiefs play Belfast Titans in Malahide, with the tournament climaxing in semi-finals and a final on September 21-22.
In a promo the organisers joked that "there are two seasons in Scotland, June and winter," but the timing of the tournament may have ensured they have every chance of avoiding the rain that blights cricket in the Atlantic islands. September is one of the driest months in Ireland, with an average of 60mm rainfall, while Edinburgh averages 70mm and Amsterdam 75mm.
Shane Ross, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and a former senior league cricketer with Trinity, said the slam could improve performances by all three countries by giving emerging talents a chance to play with experienced internationals. "This will be a major benefit to all three countries," he said. "It is the start of something big."
Warren Deutrom, Cricket Ireland chief executive, said: "From an Irish perspective, one of the prime motivators for the slam is to provide greater opportunities for Irish players to play top-quality T20 cricket. The opportunity for all of our players as well as coaches and officials to operate alongside some of the best in the world will only benefit both our established and emerging talent for at least the next decade."
George Dockrell, the Ireland all-rounder, was also buzzing about the competition, which will see a minimum of nine local players on each franchise the Belfast and Dublin ones will be picked by the Ireland selectors and a maximum of seven overseas stars per team.
"It's an incredibly exciting tournament, to have such an influx of players playing alongside you for such an extended period will be a huge learning curve for us, and to play against them will be fantastic," Dockrell said.
"The kind of learning you can pick up from this tournament will be fantastic at that level, which will only be of benefit to Irish cricket. The young players, the older players, the coaches, everyone in Irish cricket will get better from this experience," he added.