For a country that famously brought cricket to the desert before Virat Kohli, the game’s biggest superstar now, was born, the UAE had long waited for a chance to play host to a World Cup.
The wait finally ended on Monday when the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) finally threw in the towel, deciding to move the ICC T20 World Cup from the pandemic-battered south Asian country to the UAE.
The UAE first emerged as a serious contender in April when a top BCCI official told the BBC that India would not be able to host the T20 World Cup.
“It would be the UAE. We’re hoping again that it would be done by the BCCI. So, we’ll take the tournament there, but it’ll still be done by the BCCI,” Dhiraj Malhotra, one of the tournament directors, had told the BBC on April 29 — days before coronavirus breached the 2021 Indian Premier League (IPL) bio-bubble, leading to the suspension of the league.
The BCCI then decided to resume the IPL in the UAE (likely dates — September 19-October 15) before ending months of speculation on Monday by bringing the T20 World Cup to these shores.
“We have officially intimated the ICC that the T20 World Cup can be shifted to the United Arab Emirates. The details are being chalked out. The decision was taken keeping health and safety concerns of all stakeholders in mind,” Sourav Ganguly, BCCI president, told PTI on Monday.
Though the dates have not been announced, the T20 World Cup is likely to start on October 17 — couple of days after the IPL final in the UAE.
“We have more or less finalised the dates for the tournament. We are going to make an announcement soon,” Rajeev Shukla, BCCI vice-president, told Khaleej Times over phone from India on Monday.
With the UAE proving its credentials as a top-notch destination for cricket by hosting the first phase of the 2014 IPL and the entire edition of the cash-rich league last year, Shukla paid glowing tribute to the UAE government and the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) for their constant support.
“The UAE government and the cricket authorities have always been very supportive. So that gives us great confidence to take the tournament to the UAE,” Shukla said.
“And I have always said that for us, after India, the UAE is the best country for hosting premier events. It has wonderful facilities and it’s very well prepared to host big events safely in a pandemic,” he said before acknowledging the advantage of staging the IPL and the World Cup in the same country.
“In terms of bio-bubble and logistics, yes it’s definitely a great advantage, to have the IPL and the World Cup in the UAE,” the senior Indian political leader said.
Shukla also hinted that Oman could host the qualifying matches in the tournament.
“Oman, yes, is likely to host the qualifying matches. But the main matches (Super 12, semifinals and final) will be held in the UAE,” he said.
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