The official announcement of the UAE playing hosts of T20 World Cup in October-November, right on the back of IPL 2021, was a decision very much on the cards. While that may have robbed some of the surprise element among the local cricket buffs, one needs to put it into context that the decision puts the UAE on the cusp of history - it will become the first associate member nation of International Cricket Council (ICC) to host an event of this magnitude.
What convinced the ICC, world governing body of the game, and official hosts Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), to shift the event to the UAE? If the primary issue was the faith in the UAE being an absolutely safe country to host the event in view of it’s management of the Covid-19 pandemic over the last one and-a-half years, the other clinching factor was, of course, the experience and world class infra-structure at the disposal of the UAE to host such an event.
The vindication of UAE’s abilities to play ball as hosts did not come overnight - rather the journey started with the pioneering role of Sharjah in bringing international cricket to the desert in mid-Eighties, only to be followed by the birth of state-of-the art venues in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the new millennium. Once regarded as essentially an expat sport, cricket continued to wield it’s influence by hosting major events like bi-lateral neutral series, all of Pakistan’s international ‘home’ fixtures for well over a decade, a multi-nation event like the Asia Cup, two editions of IPL and of course an Under-19 World Cup in between.
The seamless manner in which the UAE authorities and the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) collaborated to host a full edition of IPL 2020 during the times of a raging pandemic must have convinced the influential Indian board that the UAE were ready to take on bigger things on their plate. Once they found a suitable window in September-October to host the remaining part of the IPL 2021 (after it had to be suspended in India with sudden positive cases), they wasted no time in opting for the UAE option - and it was a matter of time that the T20 World Cup also followed.
While hosting a World Cup like this will once again boost the UAE’s status as a major sporting hub in the Middle East, it would really serve its purpose if it results in encouraging more local talents - as well as draw Emiratis - towards the game.
That would be the real icing on the cake!