The Masters Champions League is a professional cricket tournament for retired players and legends of the game. It is a Twenty20 league and it is held in the United Arab Emirates, where it has received approval for a ten year run from the Emirates Cricket Board. The inaugural season of the Masters Champions League was held in 2016, and although its players have called time on their professional careers, the competition was intense, and the interest was high.
The Masters Champions League was announced in the summer of 2015, with the aim of bringing legendary players out of retirement for their fans to watch them one last time. All retired cricketers all welcome, and while the league is home to some of the best players to ever grace the game, they only need to be retired internationals to qualify for inclusion.
There was a lot of interest in the Masters Champions League from the beginning, and there was more than enough money to attract the big name players during the league’s first player auction. This auction involved the league’s five teams, — the Libra Legends, the Gemini Arabians, the Sagittarius Strikers, the Virgo Super Kings, the Capricorn Commanders and the Leo Lions — and many former stars were drafted. There were several transfer fees in excess of $100,000 during this first auction, as the teams looked to compile a capable squad for the inaugural season.
The 2016 season lasted just over a couple of weeks, beginning in late January 2016, and ending in the middle of February the same year. The first tournament culminated in a final match at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, which has hosted several notable competitions and internationals over the years, including the final of the Pakistan Super League. The Masters Champions League was contested between the Gemini Arabians and the Leo Lions, with the former claiming victory. The Gemini Arabians had dominated throughout the initial league stage, winning all 5 of their games. The Libra Legends, who finished at the other end of the table, lost all five of their games, despite splashing the cash on the most expensive Icon Player prior to the start of the tournament.
The icon player of the Gemini Arabians, Kumar Sangakkara, claimed the honor of the Player of the Tournament, and he also clocked up the most runs, while Muttiah Muralitharan of the Arabians claimed the honor of the most wickets.
There are six teams in the Masters Champions League, and it uses a round-robin format to begin with, before shifting to a knockout stage, with a final game being contested to decide the winner and runners-up. The games were played in three different stadiums in the United Arab Emirates, and there were both opening and closing ceremonies to add to the prestige and the excitement of the event.
With so much interest, the Masters Champions League is not short on sponsorship money and the stadiums are certainly not short on spectators for the games. However, the organizers are keen to give a little of that money back to the sport, and a significant portion of the revenue is donated to help retired cricketers.
The Masters Champions League is just as tightly regulated as any other major competition, with strict anti-corruption and anti-doping policies, as well as exacting codes of conduct.
Brain Lara, who is one of the greatest cricket players ever, and arguably the best living legend, plays in the Masters Champions League for Leo Lions. Brain Lara’s legendary status is a huge draw for the team and for the league on the whole. Lara is the captain of the Lions and he is also their Icon Player.
Lara played close to 300 One-Day-International matches and 132 Test matches during his illustrious career. He scored more than 22,000 runs during these matches and accumulated his fair share of titles, records and man of the match medals along the way.
All teams are allowed one Icon Player, generally considered to be the greatest player in the side, the one with the biggest reputation and the one who is paid the most. Englishman Paul Collingwood is another Icon Player and captain, plying his trade for Capricorn Commanders, but not all Icon players are given the captaincy. Other legends to have featured in the Masters Champions League include Adam Gilchrist, Brett Lee, Virender Sehwag and Jacques Kalli.
During the first player auction, Jacques Kalli was the one to attract the biggest fee when the Libra Legends bid $175,000 for him.