Islamabad: Wasim Akram, former Pakistan captain and a legendary pacer, has said that Saudi Arabia could form its proper cricket team as the Kingdom regularly hosted tournaments, adding he wishes to see the game “evolve” in the Gulf nation.
Akram made his first-ever trip to the Saudi capital of Riyadh in February this year where he held a meeting with the chairman of the Saudi Arabia Cricket Federation (SACF), Prince Saud bin Mishal, to discuss the future of the sport in the Kingdom.
Akram spoke about the emerging cricket talent in Saudi Arabia, saying though he did not get a chance to witness Saudi cricketers, he would like to visit the Kingdom again. “I would love to go and see the talent, and I am sure, they can form a proper cricket team, where they can actually beat the associate countries,” the former pacer said. “But for that, they have got to have domestic regular leagues, and that too, like I said earlier, on turf pitches. That’s very important for Saudi cricket to evolve.”
Growing in popularity
Akram’s visit followed the recent strengthening of cricket ties between the two countries. In January, the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), Najam Sethi, said his country was prepared to share its expertise in the sport with Saudi Arabia where cricket is increasingly growing in popularity. The same month, Javed Afridi, who owns the Pakistan Super League franchise Peshawar Zalmi, announced that his team was going to play exhibition matches in the Kingdom. “I met with the chairman of the Saudi Arabia Cricket Federation, who is a very keen and avid fan of cricket,” Akram said. “And of course, there are a lot of expats: Pakistanis, Australians, Indians, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans. They all are there, and they love one sport, that’s cricket. The [Kingdom] has about 16 districts, and they do put up regular tournaments, [but] I think what they need is a proper cricket ground and turfs, that’s where Saudi cricket will evolve.”
Since its establishment in 2020, the SACF has launched a series of major initiatives, including a national cricket championship, a corporate cricket tournament, a league for expatriate workers, and social programs in several cities. It oversees 15 official associations representing the sport in nine regions and has announced plans to set up additional associations in the remaining regions to ensure that cricket activities are held across the Kingdom.