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.

By Abdul Rahman Bukhatir

Published: Sat 13 Nov 2010, 12:13 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.

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