Backed by a high-flying Indian politician closely associated with Indian cricket, a new seven-a-side corporate cricket league - to be called 7PL - is set to be launched this week. It will be bankrolled by a United Arab Emirates-based conglomerate, and if everything goes as planned, is all set to get underway this year.

India captain MS Dhoni is the chief brand ambassador of the league and the official announcement is expected in Dubai this week. 7PL, it is learnt, has the blessings of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India ( BCCI). However, it will not be an ICC recognized tournament, sources said.

The league - that aims to further shrink the number of overs in a game - will be played between seven teams, each representing the seven Emirates of the UAE - Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Sharjah, Ras al-Khaimah and Umm al-Qaiwain. The teams will have players from seven countries - India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Australia, apart from the UAE. Each country is expected to be affiliated with one Emirate.

All the involved cricket boards have reportedly given their consent to 7PL. The number 'seven' happens to be significant not just because of the number of Emirates in UAE; it also happens to be Dhoni's favourite number.

Scheduled to be played from March this year, the matches will first be played in Dubai - both indoors and outdoors at its state-of-the-art cricket facility that also houses the World Cricket Academy - while the quarterfinals, semifinals and the final will be played outdoors.

Following the Dubai leg, the league is expected to move to other countries, depending on the international calendar and there are plans to hold a 7PL Champions Trophy at the end, on the lines of Twenty20 Champions League. The format, however, could not be entirely confirmed and sources in the know told TOI that more specific details are likely to emerge later this month.

Dhoni, along with teammate Suresh Raina, will be in the UAE this week to launch the league. The league will be a collaboration between a leading corporate from the Gulf and Rhiti Sports, the company co-owned by Dhoni's close friend Arun Pandey which also manages international cricketers. The politician's upcoming 24x7 sports channel is expected to exclusively broadcast the event. The details of the television deal are not yet known.

International and first class cricketers from all these countries - especially those who are not bought at the 2014 IPL player auctions as well as those who fail to grab a Twenty20 berth in Australia's Big Bash League - will primarily play in this tournament. It is learnt that the organizers will make an effort to involve marquee international cricketers too in different phases depending on their availability as the league goes on.

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