Playing cricket is a leisure activity and stress buster for a large number of expatriates, both young and old alike, in the UAE, especially from the subcontinent. Take a drive on a weekend morning and it is easy to spot a number of cricket enthusiasts playing the game in almost all vacant plots and parking areas.
Umm Al Quwain, a centre that hosts nearly 1,000 matches annually through its 18 tournaments, is the latest to be affected with nearly 15 grounds (where their matches were held for over a decade) being stopped from staging matches. The Dubai Cricket Council (DCC), after their seven grounds in Al Jadaf area had to be cleared to make way for construction, is still reeling under the impact.
The UAQ and DCC grounds were among the affordable ones for ordinary players unlike the heavily priced high profile grounds. Cricket at the grassroot level blossoms from these ordinary grounds, and the UAE needs many more such playing grounds. These grounds are also used by the ordinary cricketers during their early playing days since the highly priced ones can only be afforded by the corporates or rich clubs.
Mumbai, known as the nursery of Indian cricket, produced its world renowned players not from the renowned Wankhede Stadium, but from the Shivaji Park and Cross Maidan grounds.
Since the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) is now keen to promote cricket at the grassroot level, they should have inquired as to why DCC, which used to stage nearly 500 matches every season till they lost their grounds, hasn’t managed to get an alternate venue since ten years!
The Sharjah council, when they found that their grounds were under threat, ensured that their tournaments are held at Al Dhaid; thanks to Abdul Rehman Bukhatir who initiated the creation of Al Dhaid Cricket Village. Ajman Cricket Council today has Ajman Eden Gardens, Ajman Mumbai Cricket grounds and Ajman Oval for its tournaments mainly due to their enterprising secretary Shaji Ul Mulk. Umm Al Quwain cricket has thrived to date due to the passion of a cricket enthusiast in Mushtaq Ahmad.
Abu Dhabi Cricket Council ensured that their tournaments were held by creating satellite grounds around its main stadium.
It is laudable that ECB has issued a letter seeking help from Umm Al Quwain Municipality to ensure Mushtaq is able to conduct his tournaments.
The board should also find out why Dubai is forced to stage its tournaments on rented grounds. While most cricket councils in the UAE have enterprising and enthusiastic members, DCC has lagged behind.
Cricket in the UAE has thrived only due to the many ardent lovers of the game here, and hence enthusiastic organisers who stage tournaments, despite numerous obstacles surely deserve a pat.