David White, the newly-appointed CEO of the DP World ILT20, the UAE's IPL-style franchise T20 league, is one of the world's top cricket administrators.
A former Test player, White had a decade-long stint as the CEO of New Zealand Cricket with the Kiwis reaching three World Cup finals (2015 and 2019 ODI WC and 2021 T20 WC) during the period.
Now the veteran cricket administrator is confident of producing world-class results as the new head of the UAE's ambitious franchise tournament which has attracted some of the biggest players and big-name owners like Shahrukh Khan, Mukesh Ambani and Avram Glazer, the Manchester United owner who owns ILT20 team Desert Vipers.
After a successful first season, the ILT20 will return on January 19 next year for Season Two with Australian star David Warner and Pakistan pace spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi joining the newest franchise tournament in the world.
During an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times, White says the ILT20 will help the UAE usher in a new era of cricket growth.
Q. You had a top administrative position in New Zealand, a Test nation. Now how different would it be to lead a franchise league in an associate country?
I believe it is an incredibly exciting opportunity. My role with New Zealand Cricket was all about working closely with other member boards, including the associates, as cricket remains a close-knit community where all members work together for the growth and sustenance of the sport. Based on my experience in the game both as a player and an administrator, I feel I have a good understanding of what is required for us to make the ILT20 even bigger and better compared to the success of Season 1.
Be it a Test or an Associate nation, the fundamentals remain the same, cricket remains the same, it is all about packaging the league as one of the top leagues in the world which is a challenge I am really looking forward to.
Q. No other associate nation has come up with a franchise tournament as big as the ILT20. What was your impression when you first heard about the ambitious project that has drawn big-name players and big-name owners?
I was pleased to see the quality of players and franchise owners that the ILT20 succeeded in attracting — not to forget a top-class broadcast partner in Zee. The league also succeeded in securing the support of one of the largest local businesses in DP World ILT20. The ILT20 made big waves with some of the biggest names of the T20 format making their presence felt in Season 1. What has pleased me more was the performance of players like Muhammad Waseem and the impact that youngsters like Aayan Ali Khan made. The UAE players showed to the world that they belonged to top-level cricket which in my opinion is one of the biggest gains of ILT20.
Q. How excited are you now to lead a project like the ILT20?
It is indeed a hugely exciting project. We have a great team working for the league with some richly experienced team members who are fully committed and passionate about making the ILT20 a big, big success. We have some very well-established franchise owners who are fully invested in making the league one of the best in the world, their experience and pedigree in running teams full of superstars is second to none.
Zee made a tremendous start as our India and global broadcasters and succeeded in establishing the league as the second-most watched in India which, of course, is the biggest cricket market. We have three world-class cricket venues with each having its own legacy, it is a brilliant mix, and I am absolutely delighted to join the project which has so much to offer.
Q. ILT20 is going to get bigger next season with players like David Warner and Shaheen Afridi joining it. Do you expect a bigger level of interest in the league from across the cricket-playing world?
David Warner, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shadab Khan, Martin Guptill, Corey Anderson, David Willey, Ambati Rayudu and Maheesh Theekshana are outstanding signings for Season 2. We also have the England superstars Joe Root and Mark Wood in the mix for Season 2. Cricket fans in the UAE and those who would be travelling in the wonderful winter months of January and February are in for a real treat!
We had a great roster of player for Season 1 as well and I want to congratulate the franchises as they have succeeded in attracting the best of the best in the T20 format for Season 2 while retaining the core of their sides from Season 1.
Cricket fans from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, England, New Zealand, Australia and the West Indies will see their superstars in action. As the league grows, the fan clubs for Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah sides will grow and grow, it is all about creating that healthy inter-city rivalry and encouraging fans to back their teams with real zest, zeal and passion.
Q. ILT20 is key to the development of local players. We have seen the positive impact on youngsters in India after IPL….
Absolutely! We already have many success stories from the ILT20 Season 1. The 17-year-old Aayan Afzal Khan especially has progressed to become one of the mainstays of the UAE senior team after a successful stint with the tournament champions Gulf Giants. Sanchit Sharma also had a great start last season and has progressed impressively. Ali Naseer, who represented the Desert Vipers, has also shown great promise with excellent performances for the UAE.
Muhammad Waseem, of course, has progressed to captain the senior team after his heroics for MI Emirates last season. This year we are holding the ILT20 Development Tournament, and the platform is all about providing the players an opportunity to stake a claim for ILT20’s main event. There is a real depth of talent across UAE, and I am sure that we will see some new faces who will turn into real stars in Season 2.
ILT20 would always be about identifying, nurturing and developing local talent and UAE cricket will only go from strength to strength on the basis of this magnificent platform.
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