Dubai gears up to host big league cricket again

August 3rd, 2008 - 9:50 am ICT by IANS  

By Aroonim Bhuyan
Dubai, Aug 3 (IANS) The next time the English cricket team plans to tour India, their players might well fly in to Dubai a few days in advance, practise on Indian wickets here, and then catch the flight to India. Foxed?

Don’t be, because that is what the International Cricket Council (ICC)’s Global Cricket Academy, coming up at the Dubai Sports City (DSC) here - a huge complex with world class facilities for other sports such as football, hockey and basketball as well - is going to offer.

The academy’s outdoor nets will have wickets made up from soil brought from different parts of the world.

“The wickets will be made up of soil brought in from India, Australia, South Africa, England, West Indies so that these are similar to the wickets in those countries,” Malcolm Thorpe, head of sports business at the DSC, told IANS here.

“So, for example, if England has to tour India, their players can come here and practise on wickets similar to Indian wickets before embarking on the tour,” he said.

So, now you know what Indian batsmen have to do if a series comes up that will put them on the fast and bouncy tracks of Australia or South Africa.

This is one of the many state-of-the-art facilities that the ICC academy, to be headed by Australia’s former legendary wicketkeeper Rodney Marsh, will offer.

Its indoor wickets will have special surfaces like spinning tracks, quick bowling tracks and indoor fielding practice areas.

“It will be the best coaching facility in the world with wickets with special surfaces and the Hawkeye also in place,” Thorpe said.

The academy, set for a 2009 first quarter opening, is but part of a larger cricketing infrastructure coming up at the DSC as Dubai gears up to join its neighbouring cities of Sharjah and Abu Dhabi in hosting big ticket international cricket.

This includes a 25,000-seat cricket ground, being billed as what is going to be the world’s most advanced cricket stadium, two more oval grounds attached to the academy and the headquarters of the ICC.

“It (the stadium) will have a lot of latest advances. One key thing is the players’ area which will have everything in terms of player comfort, sports science and such,” Thorpe said.

“The VIP area will also be very comfortable with all amenities and the media centre will be equipped with the latest technology.”

Asked when the stadium is going to be completed, the DSC official said: “It should be completed by the end of this year.”

So does that mean international cricket is going to come to Dubai sooner rather than later?

“Well, we are in discussions with various cricket boards to have events here in 2009 like ODI series,” Thorpe said.

As for the latest rage in world cricket, he said: “Indeed, we are looking at Twenty20 very hard. We are in talks to have the (Twenty20) Champions League here at some point of time.”

All this comes even as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) gears up to host top-notch international cricket once again, something this Gulf nation with a huge expatriate population from the subcontinent looks forward to eagerly.

Already, expectations are high that the UAE has a strong chance to host the 2010 Asia Cup after the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) recently announced that it would award that year’s edition of the event to a non-Test playing nation.

And Mazhar Khan, administrator of the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB), is very excited about the prospect.

“Oh yeah, if you look at our infrastructure in the UAE, it’s amazing,” he said.

“You have the wonderful Sheikh Zayed Stadium (in Abu Dhabi), than you have the new Dubai Sports City stadium coming up, and of course the Sharjah Cricket Stadium here,” Khan said, adding that Dubai has all facilities, starting with the convenient location, flight connectivity to all parts of the world and the best of hotels.

The Sharjah ground, which has hosted a world record 198 one-dayers, last saw action in 2003 when Pakistan beat Zimbabwe in the final of the Sharjah Cup final.

Sharjah may be quiet on the international front but not Abu Dhabi.

Ever since the 20,000-seat Sheikh Zayed Stadium, arguably one of the best cricket grounds in the world, opened in 2004, the ground has seen a fair amount of international cricket, though not necessarily big league.

Though the ground has seen only five one-dayers played till now - last year Pakistan and Sri Lanka played in the Warid Cricket Series - cricket authorities in the UAE capital have big plans ahead.

Which is why Khan remains hopeful that top class international cricket will return to the UAE sooner rather than later.

“Hopefully, we should have some sort of a tournament held here. Already Abu Dhabi has announced that they would be hosting a series of matches between West Indies and Pakistan in November. So, there is no stopping of cricket as far as the UAE is concerned,” he said.

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