Nov 12, 2010

It is a matter of deep and abiding pride and achievement to welcome Pakistan and South Africa for the first ever Test match in Dubai at the state of the art Dubai Sports City stadium.

Published: Fri 12 Nov 2010, 12:09 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 2:46 AM

History is being written in the UAE again this twelfth day of November 2010.

On the very special occasion of making Dubai Sports City the 101st venue I have to record that it reflects the priorities laid down by His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in encouraging us to create this additional icon to add to the image of Dubai as the city of sport. Today, we can safely say that cricket joins golf, racing, tennis right there at the top of the world

When I look at this edifice and the immensely iconic impact it has as far as state of the art stadiums are concerned I am reminded that only yesterday my friends Sunny Gavaskar and Javed Miandad got together and planned a cricket match with the teams named after them. Was that ‘yesterday’ really nearly thirty years ago? What great milestones we have passed and what great players have walked out to the crease under a hot, desert sun or wheeled towards the wicket with the leather in their hands and graced us with their prowess over these decades. Names that now proudly decorate cricket’s hall of fame.

The first international match between an Indian and Pakistan representative team, between Gavaskar XI and Miandad XI was held in 1981. We had a hand held scoreboard about ten by ten and a field with a semi constructed sitting arrangement and the people came in droves. I remember Sunny landing in the desert with his boys and asking me where we would play. The match marked the beginning of the great experiment for the Cricketers Benefit Fund Series and that was a big success. It was with a view to creating a system where cricketers could look after their own band of brothers, that the CBFS was started. The original idea was to select cricketers from India and Pakistan and award them a benefit along the lines in England, although for obvious reasons, the purse would have to be smaller. It would not mean that they would be able to live the rest of their lives without doing a stroke of work or without a worry in the world, but it would mean that they would have something with which to start life after cricket. The first ODI was held way back in 1984 and the Sharjah Cricket Stadium still holds the unique record of staging the maximum number of international ODI’s. But life moves on and those of us with a passion for cricket look forward and towards new boundaries. Today, we celebrate a new dimension in the game and find satisfaction in the fact that the UAE now has the capability of holding all three forms of the game and has matured to becoming a contender for a multi-national tournament.

My passion for cricket began at a very early age and I did not miss an opportunity to watch a game at any level in the subcontinent. Much as I say this myself I did develop a keen eye for talent and have made many a remark about young, unknown players as I watched them go through their paces, and my assessments have hit the mark. They rose to great heights. It was on such an occasion that this short, stocky but impressive character was wielding the bat on a hot, sunny afternoon in Mumbai playing the English Schoolboy’s XI. They called them colts in those days and the Indian colts, I learnt were headed by this youngster. I asked his name and was told it was Sunil Gavaskar, ‘Sunny’ to his friends.

On a special day like this I truly believe that the UAE is a very valid contender for any event including the World Cup. It has the infrastructure, the security and safety levels demanded today from sports teams and athletes, many of them super-celebs the fans, the hotels, the post-game entertainment and facilities for recreation. I, for one, will do everything in my capacity as a Partner in the DSC, as a spearhead at the CBFS, as a part of my role in the Sharjah Cricket Council and, above all, as a lover of the game, to make that happen.

Abdul Rahman Bukhatir

Test’s 101st venue set sights on taking game to new heights

Damian Brandy

It was 133 years ago when a combined total of 20,000 fans across five days witnessed Australia beat England by 45 runs at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

In a match where the overall run rate was a snail-like 1.48 per over (they were eight-ball overs in those days), remarkably only one man in Australia’s first innings total of 245 was able to hit a boundary. That was Test cricket’s inauguration. How things have changed.

As the Dubai International Cricket Stadium gears up to become the 101st Test venue in the world and only the third on neutral soil, it’s easy to forget how far the game’s most treasured format has come.

Test cricket

When the Dubai International Cricket Stadium opened its doors in 2009, it signified the turning of a page for cricket in the desert lands of the UAE; effectively consigning 20 years of iconic cricketing encounters between the world’s best sides in Sharjah, to the annals of history.

But, while the warm memories of those 198 ODIs will never fade, the torch has very much been passed on to a newer, bigger stadium in Dubai with credible ambitions of being at the forefront of cricket’s future through day-night Tests and international events in the future.

If the game had outgrown its regional home in Sharjah by the late nineties, it certainly has plenty of space to grow into its new 25,000-seater base in Dubai. And, thanks to a multitude of factors, an opportunity to carve out a new path for the UAE’s cricketing future beckons.

“This moment has come quicker than we may have hoped for, but we are proud of first bringing ODIs and T20s to Dubai for the first time and now a Test match,” said Macky Dudhia, General Manager Sports Business at Dubai Sports City speaking ahead of the first Test.

“Sharjah will always be close to everyone’s hearts here, and for good reason. So we plan to build on that foundation and take cricket here to new heights. This is a significant moment for sport in the region”

Comparisons with the days of old are natural and justified. The bar was set high by Sharjah, but times have changed: schedules have tightened, and player availability has become increasingly sparse. Dubai’s coliseum will struggle to compete with Sharjah in terms of games played, but with Test cricket about to make its debut in Dubai and the prospect of hosting day-night Tests under the stadium’s unique ‘ring of fire’ lighting, there’s little need to look back. The future, it seems, is bright.

“Our lighting system is unique here as is our bull-ring atmosphere,” said Macky.

“Being a neutral venue means it’s not easy to ensure our fixture list, but we certainly have ambitions to broaden the use of our stadium’s facilities and this Test match is the beginning of that.”

The first five-day encounter in Dubai will certainly herald the beginning of a new era for the game here; a region that became so synonymous with limited overs cricket. Yet, ironically enough, the stadium may now find itself at the forefront of Test cricket’s immediate future thanks to its shadow-free lighting system, making it a front runner to host day-night Tests– a format the ICC is giving close consideration due to falling attendances in many countries to traditional day Tests. ICC President David Morgan commenting in May that ‘it would not be long’ before we witnessed day-night Tests.

Macky said the Dubai International Cricket Stadium’s progressive approach and a knowledgable cricket-mad fan base would lend Dubai well to the likes of day-night Tests in the future.

“Building stadiums in this part of the world isn’t easy, particularly because expectations are so high. Dubai has become famous for it architecture, and if we wanted to inspire local sports fans we had to make sure we exceeded those expectations. And we have.

“The stadium has made a real name for itself in a relatively short space of time, thanks to its atmosphere and intensity and we are all excited about bringing Test cricket to Dubai for the first time. If day-night Test cricket comes along, we’re ready to host that too.”

This Test will make Dubai the 101st international Test cricket venue in the world, a fitting number for a location that’s gearing up to celebrate the game’s most rudimentary format for the first time.

And South African captain Graeme Smith, a veteran of 86 Tests and more than 10 years at the top of the world game was demonstrably impressed by the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, and felt the atmosphere it created was as imposing as he’s experienced anywhere in the world.

“We weren’t sure what to expect from this tour, given that we’d never been here before,” Smith pointed out whilst speaking exclusively to Khaleej Times ahead of the first Test.

“But we’ve been mightily impressed with what we’ve seen. The Dubai International Cricket Stadium is hugely impressive, and when you’ve got almost 24,000 people packed in here it’s an arena that’s hard to beat for sheer noise.”

I speak on behalf of our whole team when I say we’re really looking forward to this inaugural Test match.”

Sentiment echoed by new Pakistan Test captain Misbah Ul Haq. He will have much on his plate preparing his side to compete against the world’s second best Test team, but to lead the ‘home team’ out for its first Test in Dubai will be one of the proudest moment’s of his career so far.

“Being made Pakistan captain is an honour. Being able to captain my country in this stadium for its first Test match is even more humbling. Everyone in the team loves playing here. We can’t wait to get underway.”

And so while the cricketing public looks forward with eager anticipation to that first ball being bowled on an autumn morning on Friday, those at the heart of Dubai Sports City will be taking note of how far they’ve come.

Sharjah’s legacy has prepared them well. Time now, for Dubai to shape the future.

Spinners will play key role

Adur Pradeep

DUBAI - The Dubai International Cricket Stadium is set to host its first Test as a confident South Africa, after their victories in the Twenty20 and one-day series, face Pakistan on Friday.

Dubai, after successfully hosting several T20 and ODI matches, is slated to be the 101st Test match venue in the world today.

Though South Africa, ranked No.2 in the world, start as favourites in Tests, an unpredictable Pakistan have the resources to upset their fancied opponents. After losing the T20 series 0-2, Pakistan fought back in the one-dayers, losing the title 2-3. Though the first and last ODIs saw the domination of South Africans, all the other matches were closely-contested thrillers.

Controversy hit Pakistan in this series as well as their wicketkeeper Zulqarnain Haider fled from the team hotel in Dubai to London on the morning of the final one-dayer on Monday.

However, the team management hopes the Test squad, led by Misbah-ul-Haq, would be able to put up a good performance. “You can’t just go with the past. You have to look forward all the time. We are focusing on the Test series now,” Misbah told reporters on Thursday.

“With some of our senior players back in the side, I am really looking forward to have a good series. I think we have a good, balanced side. I hope we will do well in the Test series,” he said.

“We are focusing only on cricket and will play to our strength which is spin. We hope it’s a new beginning at a new Test venue,” said Misbah of the Dubai Stadium.

Both the squads are likely to include spinners in their attack to take advantage of a wicket, expected to assist slow bowlers.

“Looking at the nature of the wicket, I think spinners have a big role to play here,” Misbah said.

South African captain Graeme Smith is also inclined to include two spinners in his squad.

“There is definitely an option,” said Smith of playing off-spinner Johan Botha and left-armer Paul Harris. “We have done that in the Caribbean (in June this year) which proved successful for us.”

Despite his team’s victory in T20s and ODIs, Smith is not overconfident about their chances in Tests.

“The confidence our players gained through the one-day series is good. I think it is going to be a neutral start. The venue is being used for the first time for Tests. Adapting to the surface is the key,” Smith said.

Pakistan, who will miss their star spinner Danish Kaneria here, will have to rely on their spinners Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman and Mohammad Hafeez for an impressive display.

The pace attack, already missing the likes of Mohammad Asif and Mohammed Aamer, have Umar Gul and Mohammad Sami, who is back in the side after missing the England tour.

Pakistan’s chances in the series would depend a lot on the form of Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf. Younis made a come back in the one-day series, and played a match-winning knock of 73 in the fourth one-dayer. Younis, who scored two half-centuries, had an average of 29.60 from five matches. The top scorer for Pakistan in ODIs was Hafeez, who amassed 203 runs, with an impressive average of 40.60.

On the other hand, South Africa seem to be having an excellent time, with their key performers hitting form at crucial junctures.

Captain Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers and JP Duminy were among the runs during the ODI series and would be keen to extend their domination in Tests as well.

Besides, Ashwell Prince, who has 11 centuries, 10 half-centuries and an average of 43.57, will boost their batting line-up.

In the bowling department also, they have a well-balanced side, having quality spinners like Paul Harris and Johan Botha and a pace attack led by Dale Steyn.

Fast bowler Lonwabo Tsotsobe, who was impressive in both T20 and ODI series, would be geared up to make an impression in the longer version of the game.

Wicket-keeper Mark Boucher, who missed the one-day series, is back in the side. His return will also boost the South African batting.

South African Test record against Pakistan is also very impressive, with the Proteas leading 5-1, while one series ended in a draw.

Cricket in the Desert

Bikram Vohra

It probably all began on a pleasant winter afternoon in the war years when a British Army contingent stationed in the Trucial States decided to have a bit of a game between the various squadrons. History will record that the parade ground version was the introduction of the game to the desert.

Over the twentieth century increasing trade links with the sub-continent further helped in the growth of the game as Arab visitors received exposure during their sojourns there to further their studies or business interests. The fervour of the subcontinent must have been intriguing even if the intricacies of the game were initially puzzling. As the greening of the desert took place the parade ground rendered space to proper playing fields.

With the formation of the federation, which resulted in the creation of independent United Arab Emirates in 1971, the game received the boost as business organisations began to sponsor the players and teams in right earnest. It was a good canvas and in view of the growing popularity of the game around the world, provided a certain impetus. There was also a surge of interest in the younger generation.

Although it was first primarily limited to expatriates with little involvement of the local population, the curiosity existed. All that was needed was to harness it.

The story of cricket may not have been the dramatic success it has become if things had coasted along without the thrust given by the oil boom. As thousands of expatriates from the cricket mad sub-continent descended in droves to the oil drenched land of fortune, they brought the game with them.

Cricket in those days was still played on rolled dirt tracks and the facilities were rudimentary, so to speak. The frenzied economic activity resulted in getting the support of Banks, Corporate houses and business organisations. There were enough people in the ranks who thought a good weekend game was just the thing.

At this stage Television was also waking up to live broadcasts and the one day game was gaining ascendency over its nobler older brother the 5-day Test.

The arrivals of pioneers of the likes of Abdulrahman Bukhatir, Reda Abbas, Abdul Rahman Falaknaz, Galadari Brothers etc. to name a few, proved to be the turning point. They had learned and played their game in the sub-continent and got hooked on to it ever since.

The advent of the now well established Cricketers Benefit Fund Series on the scene worked wonders as it proved to be a shot in the arm as the game got its first international exposure.

The first international match between an Indian and Pakistan representative team, between Gavaskar XI and Miandad XI was held in 1981 and after that CBFS never looked back. The first ODI was held way back in 1984 and today Sharjah Cricket Stadium holds the unique record of staging the maximum number of ODI’s with facilities second to none.

Another important milestone was reached when the UAE team won the ICC trophy in 1994 and thus played the 1996 World Cup, a crowning glory indeed.

In view of the new qualification rules, an all out effort is being made to attract the locals to the game and so far the signs are very encouraging.

Umpires Seminars and Coaching Clinics are also held regularly to improve the all-round standard of the game.

Today the game is fully entrenched with the number of teams and players increasing all the time. The facilities also have improved consequently. There are three turf wickets with grassy outfield including the Sharjah Cricket Stadium with its world class facilities.

The other two wickets are in Dubai and Abu Dhabi which now boast two of the finest facilities in the world.

The UAE today is a strong contender to host the highest levels of international tournaments and be the frontline of venues. Indeed, it’s ready to go.

I say, did that really happen?

A hapless player called Goulding had two ribs and bone in his foot broken by the same bowling machine? A 120 kmh delivery hit the practicing batsman full on the foot causing him to collapse to the ground. As he was writhing in agony, the relentless machine continued to hurl 4.5 ounces of leather at similar velocities, breaking the luckless Goulding’s ribs!

The furthest a cricket ball was over thrown was a phenomenal 140 yards, 2 feet by Robert Percival at the Durham Sands Race Course in 1882? The weight of the ball was not specified.

“The Master” Jack Hobbs, scored 98 of his 197 first class centuries after he had reached the age of 40?

1938, Bradman was reduced to bowling as England piled up world record score 903? Only when it became clear that Bradman would be unable to bat did the England skipper, Wally Hammond, declare the innings closed.

The original over-arm style of bowling was invented by women players, whose large extravagant skirts prevented them from bowling effectively unnder-arm?

Early versions of the game allowed a batsman to charge down an opposing fielder waiting to catch him out? This practice was very wisely banned in the 18th century, but nevertheless, one cannot help wondering about the outcome of such a collision between, sy Viv Richards and Javed Miandad!

It is over 200 years since cricket first became firmly established in the sub-continent, with the formation of the Calcutta club in 1792?

Four of the five youngest players to pay Test Cricket at one stage will fix the visual accordingly came from Pakistan?

When the incomparable Hanif Mohammed made 499 for Karachi in 1959 - still the highest individual score ever in the first class game - he was run out going for his 500 from the last ball of the day?

Another feather in Dubai’s cap

DUBAI - It will be another feather in the cap of Dubai when International Cricket Stadium hosts first-ever Test in the jewel of Middle East.

Dubai Sports City was planned to provide residents a place where they can enjoy sports at their doorsteps. The cricket stadium was a big success as Pakistan-South Africa one-day matches attracted big crowds. The expatriates from subcontinent follow the cricket religiously and hope DSC will host more and more matches to provide them with quality cricket.

The Test will be just a start and a lot more cricket will be played at this venue in future. The state-of-the-art stadium has lot to offer and facilities are second to none.

Rod Marsh, Director of Coaches at Global Cricket Academy while talking to Khaleej Times said: “It is a historic moment for Dubai and we are ready for a keen contest.

“South Africa is a well balanced side and number two Test team in the world. Though conditions will suit Pakistan but Proteas will be ready for a fight.”

The former Australian wicketkeeper said: “Pakistan is one of the most unpredictable side and can bring surprises.

“Younus Khan and Mohammed Yousuf are two top players. I have not seen them playing but their Test averages show they are class players.

“The wicket may not be different from the one which was used for one-dayers. We expect top performances from both the sides.”

Mudassar Nazar, head coach at GCA, said: “South Africa are favourites but you cannot write off Pakistan. After losing Twenty20 they made a great comeback in one-dayers. The credit goes to Shahid Afridi and Waqar Younus.

“There are concerns about Pakistan bowling — Danish Kaneria has been dropped and two top bowlers Mohammed Aamer and Mohammed Asif are facing suspensions.

“The wicket will spin later but in the beginning if there is a bounce, Dale Steyn can pose problems for Pakistan.

“Pakistan is facing problems as Umer Gul is coming after a lay-off and we are not sure how fit he is and he is shot of match practice.

“Mohammed Sami has joined the team but you cannot bank on him. He is very inconsistent and his wicket-taking ability has suffered.

“Keeping in mind these Pakistan limitations, Jacques Kallis could be big threat. He is an experienced campaigner and his wicket will be crucial. You need extra pace to get him out.

“He scored hundreds in each innings in Karachi last time and he is in a good nick after helping South Africa to clinch one-day series on Monday. “Hashim Amla is a big revelation for South Africa. He has improved tremendously and earned a permanent place in a team like South Africa.“I remember once Bill Lawry was given a chance when an Australian player was injured and he scored five centuries in the series. Amla has done the same thing and he can perform well here and in next World Cup.

The former Pakistan coach said: “Pakistan has been facing an opening crisis since long and number three and four batsmen will under pressure.

“Younus Khan and Mohammed Yousuf are seasoned campaigners and have the ability to play long innings. Pakistan will depend heavily on these two players.

“These are Pakistani pitches and there should not be much pressure on players. But Pakistan have not performed well at the Test level recently and it will be big test for them against a quality side.”

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