February 22, 2024

After a memorable photoshoot for the ILT20 trophy with cricket stalwarts Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine, Colin Munro, and Sam Billings, Nicholas Pooran found himself drawn to the iconic 22-yard strip from the Royal Box at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. The stadium—set to host the 2024 ILT20 league from January 19 to February 17—holds a special place in Pooran’s heart.

For the explosive West Indies left-hander, the UAE is more than just a cricket destination; it’s a second home. From his early days as an under-19 cricketer to his astounding performances at the 2018 T10 tournament in Sharjah, Pooran cherishes beautiful memories of this country.

Now, as he gears up to lead MI Emirates in the ILT20, the charismatic batsman aims to draw inspiration from his past heroics on UAE soil. Pooran expressed his fondness to The Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview, stating, “The UAE feels like home now, I have played so much cricket here. It’s always a good feeling to come here and play cricket.”

Reflecting on the significance of the ILT20 for UAE’s cricketing landscape, Pooran emphasised the invaluable opportunity it provides to local talents. He commended the Emirates Cricket Board’s initiative to include two UAE players in each team, fostering the growth of cricket in the country.

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“The local players can just watch the international players,” Pooran said, “and try to understand what it takes to perform at the highest level.” He believes that tournaments like the ILT20 and Abu Dhabi T10 contribute significantly to the development of UAE cricket.

As the ILT20 kicks off its second season, all eyes are on the six participating teams—MI Emirates, Abu Dhabi Knight Riders, Desert Vipers, Dubai Capitals, Gulf Giants, and Sharjah Warriors. The inclusion of two UAE players in each squad aligns with the Emirates Cricket Board’s vision to strengthen the sport domestically.

“Our preparations have been brilliant,” says Pooran, adding how his team has “been here for the last couple of days,” and “working really hard.”

Pooran commended the progress made by UAE cricket, citing notable achievements such as the UAE Under 19 team’s impressive run to the Under 19 Asia Cup final and the senior team’s victories over Test-playing teams like New Zealand and Afghanistan.

As the cricketing extravaganza unfolds across three world-class venues—Dubai International Stadium, Sharjah Cricket Stadium, and Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi—the anticipation is palpable. The defending champions, the Gulf Giants, kick off the tournament against the Sharjah Warriors at Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Friday at 6:30 pm.

MI Emirates, led by NPooran, will commence their campaign against Dubai Capitals on Saturday, ready to showcase their skills and make their mark in the exciting ILT20 tournament.

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