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The Indian Premier League (IPL) 7, 2014 may help to improve things for cricket in the United Arab Emirates, writes Nishad Pai Vaidya.
Dubai is a fantastic place to visit. The man made wonders of the world will dazzle you and leave you spellbound. From the Burj Khalifa to the Dubai Marina, this city has grown leaps and bounds in the last decade and is truly an international destination. Amidst that, the Indian Premier League (IPL) 7, 2014 is set to begin in the desert oasis, with the promise of the expatriate population coming to the grounds and cheering for their favourite teams. Abu Dhabi and Sharjah are also gearing up for this opportunity to cash in on the IPL hoopla.
While Pakistan have been regular visitor to the country, Indians have not played in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for eight years. In the early 2000s, the government banned the Indian team from visiting Sharjah due to the match-fixing scandal. However, in 2006, the Indians did play the inaugural One-Day International (ODI) series at Abu Dhabi against Pakistan. Thus, the Indian expatriates would be keen to watch their stars in action, as they haven’t visited the country for long.
However, the IPL may present a few challenges for the fans. Sharjah is the only venue that is quite easily accessible in the city. From the main bus station, you can take a taxi, which would take you about 10 minutes. However, Dubai and Abu Dhabi’s cricket stadiums are too far out of the respective cities, which would mean the really passionate crowds would come to watch the game. Getting to them is not very easy and with the matches starting in the afternoon and early evening, most of them would have to give up a few hours at work and make it to the ground, unless of course it is a weekend.
Take the example of Dubai. The Dubai International Cricket Stadium is set in Sports City which is to the south west of the main city. To get there, you have to take a metro to a particular station and then hire a cab from there, which would take another 15 odd minutes. While covering the ICC Under-19 World Cup, this writer did face difficulties in finding transport after the games, but the cab drivers did assure that when the games are big, they come in numbers to assist the spectators.
Thus, the IPL may actually help cricket in the UAE in a few ways. It could help make the stadiums at Dubai and Abu Dhabi more accessible to the fans. That is one area where there is a bit of a concern. But, once you get to the stadium, the facilities are good and you get an unhindered view of play. Pakistan may have visited a few times, but this IPL is a chance for UAE to impress upon India that it is a good place to play cricket. If things work well, this could well help them host India again.
There is a lot of interest for cricket in the UAE and with it being an international city, the IPL could look at it in terms of generating greater revenues. This IPL is a test not just for the Indian board but also the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) to showcase its ability to host a multi-team tournament after it successfully staged the Under-19 World Cup.
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