Sharjah: The Sharjah Cricket Stadium always evokes nostalgic memory for the UAE cricket fans. It must have been a great sight for them when after a gap of eight years, top international teams rode the turf again with Pakistan hosting matches against Sri Lanka and Australia in the last one year.
The match-fixing allegations that disparaged the image of this venue and held back teams from competing here has been blown away with the International Cricket Council (ICC) giving the venue a clean chit.
This stadium, which has been recognised as hosts of highest number of One Day Internationals, has once again become the stage for keen contests as fans thronged the stands to enjoy the intense action again.
Today, this venue is the home grounds of three teams — Pakistan, Afghanistan and of course the UAE. The Sharjah Cricket Club, which owns the stadium, sprang into action as soon as top international matches were allotted to this venue.
Thousands of Afghanistan fans that live in and around the stadium came out to watch Afghanistan play against Pakistan and also against the Australians. Even One-day internationals between Pakistan and Sri Lanka and Australia were held here. After a gap of 10, years Pakistan and Sri Lanka even played in a Test match on November 2011.
Abdul Rehman Bukhatir, who brought international cricket to the desert by building this stadium, had allowed Afghanistan to use this venue as their home ground till their country turns safe from political upheavals.
His son Waleed Bukhatir, vice-chairman of Sharjah Cricket Club and an executive member of the Emirates Cricket Board, told Gulf News: “We are working hard to recreate the same glory that made Sharjah a special venue. The officials from the ICC visited the stadium to assess whether the changes have been made according to their rules. We have fully followed the norms so that the stadium can be used for bigger tournaments in the coming years.”
The seating capacity of 27,000 had to be reduced to adhere to the ICC stipulations, creating special areas for players and officials.
“We are thankful to Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and the president of the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) for allotting these international matches to Sharjah,” added Bukhatir.
Before the start of these top matches, Vin Sharma, Group Talent Manager of Guinness World Records presented a certificate commemorating the landmark of hosting the maximum number of One-day Internationals to Shaikh Nahyan.
For Sharma, presenting the certificate honouring the venue was itself a special feeling. Speaking to Gulf News, Sharma, who flew in from London for the presentation, said: “To officially present the record is an amazing feeling — both personally and professionally. As a child, I grew up watching those great matches that were held here, especially the India-Pakistan contests. It is a historic stadium and it deserves to be in the Guinness Book of Records.”
Today, Sharjah is buzzing with action, with even domestic tournaments drawing large crowds. Mazhar Khan, secretary of the Sharjah Cricket Council said: “This is a common man’s stadium. Almost all cricket fans love to be here and even now, like in the past, almost every matches end in a thrilling finish.”
It seems to be only the beginning as many international matches are expected to be held here in the coming years, including the prestigious 2014 ICC Under-19 World Cup.