Indians are coming to Gulf for cricket, and that's good

The UAE is the best option considering that Colombo sided with Islamabad in protesting against the creation of the not-so-holy trinity of cricket and the South Africans wanted a whopping $25 million, which is double the amount being spent in Emirates

bikram

Bikram Vohra | March 20, 2014



Indians are coming after a 14 year hiatus and they will once again play a sort of 'international' cricket tournament in the UAE. This hosting of a segment of the IPL should be seen as a first step towards re-establishing test and one-day ties and ensuring an ongoing relationship. Much of the misunderstandings of the late nineties were predicated to the perception that there was a fair deal of match fixing being engaged in and Indians deflected attention from the Mumbai mafia’s control of things by pointing a flinty finger in this direction. Things just got murky and out of hand.

Much of the good that one-day cricket received by way of benefit was overlooked in the controversy. It went beyond the often forgotten but tangible $5 million given in purses to international cricketers by the highly successful CBFS experiment and placed Sharjah on the world map. Also, it should be remembered that nowhere else were cricketers feted, given hospitality and lionised as they were on their visits. Sharjah was the trigger for the start of the cricket icon era. The multi-partisan expats, especially Indians and Pakistanis, culled out holidays to watch them play and entertain them lavishly so there was a great deal of warmth and affection in those days and sometimes a surfeit of emotion can turn sour.

But it is time now to move on from those memories and work towards bringing back that erstwhile cricketing glory to a nation which now has three world class stadiums.

There are also two very good official reasons for doing so, even if you carelessly discount the fact that the ICC headquarters is based in the Emirates.  The first is that the UAE has qualified for the T20 World Cup making it a cricket playing nation. The second that Pakistan has chosen the UAE as its surrogate home and it has played official matches against other nations here on a regular basis. Since this option has been recognised it becomes incumbent upon the ICC and the BCCI to take these imperatives on board and factor them into the annual fixtures. I look forward to the day when India plays Pakistan in the UAE and the fans are once again offered a sporting treat.

Knowing that overdoing the adulation can be counter-productive it would be highly recommended that the Indian expats enjoy the cricket next month and not compete for the attention of the players or set off a tsunami of parties and receptions and inaugurations as they want to do. It becomes a slightly comical theatre and usually backfires.

It is a happy first move but let everyone step lightly and make for a durable relationship. The Indian cricket authorities have opted for the UAE because they really could not come up with any reason why the obvious venue should be overlooked. Besides, India enjoys excellent relations with the UAE, which is its second biggest trade partner, with bilateral agreements currently pegged at $ 75 billion.

Add to that political equation a new generation of cricketers who vociferously supported coming to the UAE and cannot fathom the foot dragging. It is safe, secure, ultra modern, has the best of entertainment and it has the fans. The sponsors and the owners of the IPL teams practically ‘reside’ in the UAE or are there on work and business, not to mention shooting films for Bollywood. They collectively could not understand what the hesitation was about when the answer was staring them in the face. Besides, they are saving a fortune in just going across to Dubai than flogging their way to South Africa. And then there was another financial reality check. Similar time zones, better viewing hours for the Indian public, home-like conditions, no food problems and, above all, a high recognition factor of the teams made the difference and advertisers wanted the maximum bang for their advertisement spend. How many Indians would watch Jo’burg play Durban? Ergo, how many South Africans would watch Deccan play Chennai. Only here, after India, would state teams get a support.

According to some cricket pundits India even considered Sri Lanka as a venue but struck it off because Colombo ostensibly sided with Islamabad in the ICC in protesting creation of the not-so-holy trinity of cricket.

It is also said that the South Africans wanted $25 million whereas here in the Emirates the cost is not even half of that and this in itself is a very good reason to come back.

But the paint is still wet and a fair amount of earnestness, sincerity of purpose and transparency are needed to forge those building bricks for the future.  Time for the ECB to show its mettle and put its best foot forward, which it will.  Let these players and organisers go back absolutely convinced that whatever the UAE does, it does better than anyone else.

With that said, it is good to see the Indians back.

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