Kolkata: The UAE is poised to make history to be the first associate member country of the International Cricket Council (ICC) to host the T20 World Cup in October-November this year - and it has sent the pulses of the local cricket fraternity racing already.
It will hence be nearly two months of top drawer T20 cricket action across Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah - with the remaining part of IPL 2021 set to precede the World T20 from mid-September. Sourav Ganguly, the president of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), on Monday confirmed their decision to shift the event to the UAE on the last day of their deadline of informing the ICC.
“We have officially intimated the ICC that the T20 World Cup can be shifted to the United Arab Emirates. The details are being chalked out,” Ganguly said. “The decision was taken keeping health safety concerns of all stakeholders in mind,” the former Indian captain added.
During an edition of the Shyam Bhatia Annual Cricket Awards in 2016, I said that in near future, a major ICC event like the Champions Trophy or the T20 World Cup will be held in the UAE. I am so happy that my dream has come true
The World T20 is by far the biggest cricket event set to be hosted in the UAE, which was responsible for bringing international cricket in the Middle East in the shape of the Cricketers’ Benefit Fund Series (CBFS), masterminded by Abdul Rehman Bukhatir of Sharjah in mid-Eighties. The country has grown in leaps and bounds since then - not only as a host of cricket events but world class sports showpieces in Formula One, horseracing, football, tennis, golf and rugby.
While the UAE had acted as the ‘home’ venue for all Pakistan’s international fixtures for more than a decade from 2009, it has hosted the IPL twice now while Sharjah had played it’s part as a neutral venue for Test matches in the past. The last multi-nation event to have taken place in the UAE is the Asia Cup in 2018 while the ICC had hosted the Under-19 World Cup there in 2014.
‘‘We have heard about the news from the media. However, we would like to get an official intimation from the ICC before we could give an official reaction,’’ said Mubhashir Usmani, Secretary General of Emirates Cricket Board (ECB), when reached out by Gulf News.
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Shyam Bhatia, the Dubai-based cricket connoisseur whose privately owned cricket museum has won wholehearted praise from the global cricket community, is overjoyed at his ‘‘prediction’’ coming true. ‘‘I am so thrilled and happy that the T20 World Cup is coming to our part of the world. During en edition of the Shyam Bhatia Annual Cricket Awards in 2016, I said that in near future, a major ICC event like the Champions Trophy or the T20 World Cup will be held in the UAE. I am so happy that my dream has come true,’’ said the septuagenarian.
‘‘See, we have great facilities here which very few countries can match. BCCI has taken the right call by hosting the event here and I feel that in near future, the ICC should think of transferring other bi-lateral events here. If all goes well, we should at least be able to see 50% crowd in the stadia by October. I feel like winning a lottery today,’’ he added.
Presley Polonnowita, one of the leading local coaches and a former first class player in Sri Lanka, said: ‘‘It’s a great recognition for an associate country to be selected as the World Cup hosts. I would like to believe that we are getting the fruits of hard work put in by so many individuals in the past.’’
Asked how an event of such magnitude can have a rub-off on the UAE cricket community, Polonnowita made a valid point: ‘‘We should try to maximise this opportunity for the local cricketers and coaches rather than just playing hosts. Our net bowlers, coaches and academy kids etc may have some exposure while it should also spark a greater level of interest among Emirati youngsters to take up the sport. However, we need to plan well for this.’’