Sharjah Cricket Stadium, which hosted the opening ceremony followed by the first match of the APL, is one of the many venues in the UAE which can host world-class events. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Sharjah: A top official from the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) has revealed intentions of the UAE eventually tabling a bid to host the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup, even as the inaugural edition of the Afghanistan Premier League (APL) got off to a rousing start on Friday.

Waleed Bukhatir, vice-chairman of the Sharjah Cricket Council (SCC) and executive committee member of the ECB, said there is a definite plan to host an array of top cricketing events across the UAE.

Both Pakistan and Afghanistan have chosen the UAE as their ‘home country’ to host international cricketing matches. Cricketing confidence has further grown in recent times with the successful hosting of the Asia Cup earlier this month.

The ongoing inaugural edition of the APL hosted at the famed Sharjah Cricket Stadium is yet another sign of the growing popularity of the UAE as a top-class cricketing venue.

At the same time, the two world-class stadiums in Abu Dhabi and Dubai have lined up Test matches series, One Day Internationals and T20s involving Pakistan against Australia and New Zealand in the next two months.

“I believe that we have a plan behind hosting these tournaments and Test match series,” Bukhatir told Gulf News prior to the start of the APL on Friday evening. “The UAE has such a strategic location on the globe. We are centre and a hub for everything, and I feel we need even more cricket than we have at the moment.

“It is possible to have more cricket here, as our ultimate goal is to one day play host to the ICC World Cup. For the time being, the eyes of the entire cricketing world are on the UAE because of all these activities, so it would be a logical thing to one day table a formal bid to host a World Cup,” he added.

Bukhatir refrained from putting a deadline for getting a bid tabled before the world governing body for cricket. “We are working every day towards that goal of one day hosting a World Cup in the UAE,” he said.

“And everyone in the sport is aware that we are capable of doing so as we have the infrastructure. I am confident we will achieve that goal as well,” he affirmed.

Given a cramped-looking cricketing schedule that commenced early in September, one would be tempted to think that the sport has had a sort of an overkill here. “I don’t think so. There is so much of cricket being played all over the world at the moment and I think we very much deserve to have our rightful share,” Bukhatir said.

“These events, however big or small, are meant to be stepping stones towards the bigger goals and one of these definitely is to host the ICC World Cup in the near future.”

He further felt that the ripple effects of hosting top-notch events such as the Asia Cup, the series involving Pakistan alongside other Test-playing nations and the inaugural edition of the APL will pass on to the younger generation.

“When you have top cricketing stars playing in the country there is naturally going to be an interest among the youngsters to come and be part of such events. I believe this is one of the best formulas for the development of the sport,” Bukhatir said.

“And this is what we need at the moment. We need international cricket to come to the UAE and develop our cricketers and the rest of the things will automatically fall in line in the long run.”