West Indies opener Chris Gayle and Pakistan allrounder Shahid Afridi, among the biggest entertainers in the Twenty20 format, have been named the two international icon players in the inaugural Sri Lanka Premier League that begins August 10.
The presence of the duo, who will join five other Sri Lanka players as icons of their respective teams, lends the fledgling league some star power and has the potential to boost viewership.
Gayle, who is set to play New Zealand in five ODIs and two Tests at home in a series that ends August 6, will represent the Uva province, while Afridi will play for Nagenahira, ESPNcricinfo has learned.
Last week Sri Lanka Cricket auctioned the seven Sri Lanka Premier League teams for an average price of $4.3 million. A number of Indian companies are believed to have successfully bid for teams in the Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL), highlighting the lure of the franchise model in cricket's largest market despite the BCCI's reluctance to allow Indian players to participate.
Among the companies are the Wadhawan Group, a business conglomerate with interests in real estate, retail and education, India Cricket Dundee, an Indian fan organisation along the lines of the Barmy Army, and the Delhi-based Rudra Group, which also has interests in real estate.
A player draft will be conducted on July 5 and 6, with a lottery held to determine the order in which players are picked. SLC will determine the value of the contract for each player in advance and the franchises will be made aware of the cost of the player. The players will be drafted in two groups - the first consisting of players from Sri Lanka and the second, the foreign players. The draft is being seen as the best way to ensure that players are evenly distributed among the teams, making it a level playing field.
The SLPL will run for three weeks, with the final to be held on August 31. There will be 24 games in total, split between Colombo and Pallekele. Teams will be allowed a maximum of 18 players, out of which six can be foreign players. Teams will be allowed play a maximum of four foreign players per game. Out of the remaining seven players in the XI, one must be a Sri Lanka Under-21 international.