Sharjah: It was more than a routine inspection by the Indian cricket board president Sourav Ganguly when he turned up at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Monday morning to do a recce of the arrangements for the Indian Premier League (IPL) which gets underway from Saturday. Altogether 12 matches of the IPL 2020 will be played at the historic venue, starting with the one between Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings on September 22.
Ganguly, the former Indian captain who famously made his debut at the Lord’s in 1996, has played enough cricket in Sharjah - including featuring in several of the famous India-Pakistan clashes. He scored a century (105) against New Zealand in 1998 in Sharjah and shares many a fond memory of the venue.
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A top level team of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, including Ganguly, IPL chairman Brijesh Patel and COO Hemang Amin were a part of the delegation which spent close to two hours in Sharjah and gave a thumbs up to the preparations. This is the first of the three venues that the top level BCCI team visited and is expected to follow it up with visits to Dubai and Abu Dhabi stadiums.
Arriving in Dubai on September 9, Ganguly stayed in quarantine in his hotel for six days, holding conference calls with his colleagues to take stock of the preparations. Lauding the new look of the venue, Ganguly said it would inspire the young players to give their best at a stadium where greats like Sunny Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar wrote history.
It is learnt that the four matches of the Women’s T20 Challenge, which is tentatively scheduled between November 1 to 10, may be alloted to this venue.
Sharjah, meanwhile, is undergoing a major makeover to dress up for the occasion - with new canopies which have added a splash of colour and upgraded Royal Suite and VIP hospitality boxes.
With the tournament being played in the background COVID-19 pandemic, special sanitary measures have been implemented around the stadium to maintain the bio-secure bubble. These include the player’s pavilion, practice facilities and the commentators box
“We are taking every possible precaution to ensure the safety of everyone from players support staff to franchise owners and it’s our key aim is to keep that bubble intact right through the tournament,” Waleed Bukhatir, Vice Chairman of the Sharjah Cricket Ground, said in a statement.
“No effort will be spared and we are going about it in a systematic and scientific way.”
The historic stadium has seen international cricket action for more than three decades now, with the first ODI played as far back as 1984. It has played host to over 240 One-day Internationals, the highest for any venue which earned it a pride of place in the Guinness Book of Records.