The Dubai International Cricket Stadium, set to be one of the venues for the 2022 Asia Cup which will now be staged in the UAE. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Asia Cup cricket starts on August 27. But, host Sri Lanka is unable to organise the event following the political and economic upheaval in the island nation. With an economy in the doldrums, Sri Lankans face acute scarcity of food and fuel. Conducting an international tournament at a time of extreme distress for Sri Lankan people will be absolutely irresponsible as it will be a waste of precious resources.

To the Sri Lankans’ credit, they recently hosted two bilateral series: one against Australia, followed by Pakistan. Both the series went untouched by the protests and the anger on the streets against the ruling dispensation. But, they were bilateral series with one visiting team at a time. A tournament is a different kettle of fish. With several teams in the fray, the sheer logistics of organising 13 games are mindboggling.

The Sri Lankan cricket board has realised the enormity of the task at hand and rightly decided against holding the cricket championship at home. Sri Lanka could still organise the games in another country.

UAE’s tryst with international cricket

The UAE and India are ideal venues. ESPNcricinfo says last week’s Asian Cricket Council meeting decided to hold the tournament in Dubai and Sharjah from August 27 to September 11. But there’s been no confirmation yet. I guess that will come soon.

The confirmation, when it comes, will only reaffirm the faith in the UAE’s ability to organise international events even at short notice. That faith is born out of the past experience when the UAE successfully hosted two seasons of the Indian Premier League and the Twenty20 World Cup. Both events were conducted after a sudden change of venue necessitated by the COVID waves in India. Before that, Pakistan’s home Test series were played on the UAE pitches.

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With every tournament, the UAE’s reputation has grown, and whenever an alternate venue is required, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah cricket stadiums spring to mind. So, the move to conduct the Asia Cup in the UAE didn’t come as a surprise. More so, since the UAE has a long history of organising international cricket tournaments.

The origins of international cricket in the UAE date back to 1981 with the Cricketers’ Benefit Fund Series, organised by Abdul Rahman Bukhatir, in Sharjah. International cricket stadiums in Abu Dhabi and Dubai gave a fillip, and the UAE became a sought-after venue. With the International Cricket Council setting up its headquarters in Dubai, the UAE’s stature rose among the cricketing fraternity.

So it won’t be a surprise if 2022 Asia Cup comes to Dubai and Sharjah. With a large expatriate population from South Asia, the tournament in the UAE will be a thumping success. Arch-rivals India and Pakistan will face off at least twice in the tournament, and these games will be special.

Now, let’s await the official announcement on Friday (July 22).