CRICKET IN ARABIAN DESERT

CRICKET  IN ARABIAN DESERT

Now, the 2nd phase of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021  is under way in U.A.E. played in 3 grounds, viz., Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah . Let’s trace the history of International cricket in the  Arabian Desert.  

Sharjah stadium  was the brainchild of the Arabian Business tycoon, Abdul Rahman Bukathir, who was the driving force of building an International cricket stadium at Sharjah, U.A.E. In fact Sharjah cricket Association has been one of the founding members of U.A.E. Cricket Association in 1971..

The sudden influx of expats and oil exploring companies in U.A.E.  saw the emergence of  many workers especially from the  Asian sub-continent employed there.  It was a workplace for them.  During the weekends, these expats used to  watch cricket and it continues now also.

The cricket  ground in Sharjah is in the midst of an industrial area and people use to peep in the evening whenever the floodlight is switched on and the cricket is played there. 

In 1976 a Pakistan International Airlines side –  which drew the big names of Pakistan cricket such as Wasim Bari, Majid Khan, and Sarfraz Nawaz – came over to play.  In fact that  was the precursor to the heady days ahead, although first a proper ground was required. Abdul Rahman Bukhatir, who was known as “ the father of cricket” in U.A.E. earmarked a plot of land by the Sharjah Sports Club and, with the advantage of having a construction company as part of his portfolio, set about building one.

INTERNATIONAL  CRICKET

The first ODI was played way back in 1984 in Sharjah, when Pakistan faced Sri Lanka . Pakistan had Zaheer Abbas as captain and Srilankan team was headed by the diminutive Duleep Mendis.  When Srilankan tigers prevailed over Pakistan and coasted to victory with consummate ease by 5 wickets.  Arjuna Ranatunga took 3 for 38 and Roy Dias made a match-winning 57. 

But it was a match in 1981  that marked the beginning of Sharjah’s international days, when a Sunil Gavaskar XI faced a Javed Miandad XI on an astroturf wicket which was won by Javed Miandad XI.  This match generated a lot of heat as so many expats were from India and Pakistan and they acted as the 12th man for the teams. Though not an official international, given what would develop over the next 20 years it was arguably one of the most significant cricket matches. It was played as the Hanif Mohammad and Asif Iqbal benefit match , a theme that would become central to Sharjah cricket through the creation of the Cricketers Benefit Fund Series, for which the driving force was Bukhatir, who wanted to give something back to long-serving players.

Sharjah cricket Stadium. Courtesy : cricinfo.com

“In the initial days it was sometimes scary,” Mazhar remembers. “We had our first match with 8000-10,000 people sitting on the temporary scaffolding.”

MEMORABLE MATCHES AT SHARJAH 

Of all the famous matches here played in a surcharged atmosphere, Sachin Tendulkar’s Desert storm in the hot summer of April 1998 stands out tall at Sharjah.  In the heat gathering storm, the Master blaster hit back to back centuries against the Aussies and helped India to win the Coco-Cola cup title .

Pakistan’s Javed Miandad’s final ball six in the Austral-Asia cup in 1986 when India’s  Chetan Sharma try to bowl a yorker when 4 runs were required in the final ball but the Pakistan’s fox converted that shot and sent the ball into the stadium stands for a 6 and won the final.

In 2002, the invincible Aussies inflicted a humiliating Innings defeat on Pakistan in both Tests played here including a 58 & 59 runs in the 2nd Test. It was Pakistan’s worst performance in Tests at Sharjah as the Test was over inside 2 days.

UNIQUE RECORD AT SHARJAH

Courtesy : cricinfo.com

A board conspicuously displayed at Sharjah International Cricket ground ( in U.A.E.) way back in 2015  it held the record of  hosting most  ODIs (218) which is a world record. And even today in 2021 it holds the record of hosting the most ODIs( 240).

TEST STATUS FOR SHARJAH

 By 2011 the ground was suitable for the return of Full Member sides. When Pakistan,which adopted U.A.E. as a second home, it played host to a Test with Srilanka. The “home” supporters were given a treat, as Shahid Afridi produced a magnificent all-round display, first hitting 75 off 65 balls to lift Pakistan from 97 for 6 and then claimed five wickets after Sri Lanka had been 155 for 3 chasing 201. Sharjah was back.

“The less famous part of the Sharjah story is its role as a Test venue: England became the fifth “visiting” nation to play there when the ground hosted its 8th Test in 2015. However, Sharjah was the original neutral venue in the UAE – before Dubai and Abu Dhabi had international grounds — when Pakistan needed a second home.

Till now Sharjah stadium has hosted 9 Tests for Pakistan out of which Pakistan won 4 tests and lost 4 tests.

Later on, the strife ridden Afghanistan has adopted Sharjah as its home ground and played T20I matches here

DUBAI INTERNATIONAL STADIUM

Photo courtesy : Dubai Sports city

Project details

  • Year 2008
  • Work started in 2006
  • Work finished in 2008
  • Contractor Dubai Sports City
  • Cost approx. € 75 Million
  • Status Completed works
  • Type Sports Centres / Stadiums / Sports Facilities

Photo courtesy : archilovers.com

The Dubai International stadium  is a  multi – purpose stadium, in DUBAI, U.A.E. . It is mainly used for  cricket. It has a capacity of 25,000 spectators, but is expandable to 30,000 spectators. It is a part of the DUBAI SPORTS city .

The Dubai Cricket Stadium was designed by the internationally renowned architects Gerkan, Marg and Partners, based in Germany. -The roof structure was constructed in a cross-vaulted style. Steel trusses were covered with a laminated PTFE membrane. The structure provides cover for all the seats in the arena and offers protection from the sun and wind. – The roof pitch meets today’s ICC standards. – The 82 seats for sports journalists and 7 commentator boxes meet the requirements of today’s media. – ALPINE constructed one of the most modern sports stadiums in the world in just 28 months. 

The Dubai International Stadium is lit by a special system of floodlights named “Ring of Fire”. The 350 floodlights are fixed around the circumference of its round roof, thereby minimizing the shadows of objects in the ground and having no light towers.

So far, 62 T20I matches have been staged at the venue. And Pakistan which has adopted as Home ground played 13 Tests and out of which 7 tests were won by them.  And this ground hosted 34 ODIs including Asia Cup and Tri-nation series in which the local U.A.E.  team participated and won the two games.

The stadium will be one of the dedicated venues for the  2021 ICC Men’s T20 WORLD CUP  and is scheduled to host the Semi Final 2 and the Final of the latter on November 11, 2021 and November 14, 2021 respectively.

Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi

Courtesy : sportstime.com

The Zayed Cricket Stadium was first opened in 2006. It is a picturesque venue and one of the largest stadiums in the world in terms of ground area. The biggest challenge for teams in Abu Dhabi will be the length of the boundary ropes. With most Indian grounds having smaller boundaries, power hitters will play a massive role in matches staged in Abu Dhabi.

There has only been one score of 200 or more made in a T20I in Abu Dhabi in the 45 matches played at the venue. The team batting second has won 25 of the 45 matches played here in international T20s.

Abu Dhabi has practice net facilities with 24 lanes adjacent to each other meaning that there will be no shortage of space for preparations for the teams. There are also two other ovals, all of which are of standards befitting first-class cricket, aside from the Zayed Cricket Stadium.

It has hosted 14 Tests  out of this 12 Tests for Pakistan and 2 Tests for Afghanistan.  It also hosted 52 ODIs and 48 T20Is.

It will also be hosting T20 World cup matches later this year.

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