Dubai: The countdown for cricket carnival of Indian Premier League (IPL) in the UAE has begun and the game’s fraternity here are excited at the prospect of Who’s Who of world cricket converging here from Thursday. The 13th edition of the league will be held at three venues of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah from September 19 to November 10.
Shyam Bhatia, a well-known cricket enthusiast who has developed an unique museum at his residence in Dubai over the past decade, may be a purist of the game at heart but acknowledges IPL’s role in improving the lot for the cricketers across the board. ‘‘It’s fun cricket for me but I will definitely be watching it on TV every evening. The way I see it, it should brighten the mood of the people here after the struggling times due to the pandemic,’’ remarked Bhatia.
A septuagenarian, Bhatia had been a major benefactor of the country’s cricketing community as a whole with his Shyam Bhatia Annual Cricket Awards which recognises the best performers across all age groups, women’s category as well as the umpires every year. A stream of legends of the game, from Sunil Gavaskar, Viv Richards to Anil Kumble or Kumar Sangakkara have attended the awards ceremony as chief guests over the years.
‘‘However, we will have to adhere to the safety protocols this time and I think it will be out of question to invite any of cricketers during this edition,’’ Bhatia told Gulf News.
Anis Sajan, another local businessman and an owner of T10 teams in the fledgling League here, feels staging the IPL here is a major endorsement of the cricketing infra-structure of the country and the organisational capabilities of the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB). ‘‘This is precisely why the UAE is being considered as an alternative venue for next year’s T20 World Cup,’’ said Sajan, an avid cricketer himself.
Asked if he would prefer the matches to have limited crowds, Sajan said: ‘‘I am told around 20-30% of crowd could be there in the later stages, though my advise would be tread on it this very carefully. The positive side of having a crowd though is it will help the airline and tourism industry.’’
Sajan said he is also in touch with a number of IPL franchises to explore a partial sponsorship of the teams during the event. ‘‘We have offered them the status of Home Partners of the event and are waiting for their replies,’’ he said.
Chirag Suri, the leading opener of UAE team and the only player from the country who have had a taste of sharing an IPL dressing room (he was a member of the now defunct Gujarat Lions team in 2017 IPL), said the full window of IPL is like a windfall for the cricketers here. ‘‘It’s a massive opportunity for the cricketers here. Though unlike the last edition in 2014, the franchises are bringing their own net bowlers - but there could still be a window of opportunity in such a long tournament.,’’ he said.
Amin Farooq, General Secretary of Dubai Cricket Council, is also overjoyed at the buzz created as the teams started started arriving from Thursday. “It is a great pleasure to be the hosts of IPL. It is going to be an amazing experience. It is such a huge event you get to learn a lot by watching it even on TV. Getting a chance to watch it live in the stadium is surely going to be a learning experience,” added Farooq.