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By Amir Husain
For most followers of cricket, the history of the game in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has always revolved around fond recollections of memorable and epic encounters between Pakistan and India. Whilst the Sharjah matches of the early 1980s remain great reminders of the intense rivalry between the two neighbours, the love for cricket has taken on a new dimension with Pakistan using the UAE as a “home” venue for it’s international games. The Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014, with all its “Bollywoodesque” glitz and glamour, has also brought great excitement and exposure to the country and it is no wonder that the profile of cricket is at an all time high in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Whereas, the IPL has attracted a lot of interest due to it’s high profile, the absence of Pakistani players in this tournament has also been a source of great disappointment for many fans of the game. It is in this regard, that the fans of Pakistani cricket have welcomed the news that some of the top international stars from Pakistan are also in the UAE, where they are participating in one of the most respected local tournaments, the SuperStars Twenty20 (T20).
The tournament which is now in it’s second season is based on the popular T20 format and comprises of the top 16 clubs from UAE and is organised by a Web Channel held under the auspices of the Dubai Cricket Council (DCC). The tournament commenced on 19th April and is being played in round robin format with four groups comprising of four teams each. After the round robin matches the knock out stage will be hosted with the qualified teams from the round robin format competing in quarter-finals and semi-finals. The tournament comes to an end with the Final game being played on 16th of May.
The Pakistani interest in the SuperStars T20 is being headlined by a vast array of upcoming and experienced international players such as Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Fawad Alam, Hammad Azam, Aizaz Cheema, Yasir Hameed, Shahzaib Hassan, Sharjeel Khan, Sohail Khan, Khalid Latif, Kamran Akmal, Imran Nazir, Nasir Jamshed, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Anwar Ali, Muhammad Khalil, Mohammad Sami, Hasan Raza Sr and Khurram Manzoor.
With no international cricket on the horizon for Pakistan until a few months later, the SuperStars T20 tournament represents an ideal opportunity for players to polish their skills and also participate in a high profile tournament which could help them in enhancing their future career prospects.
Pakistan Test opener, Khurram Manzoor who impressed with his recent performances during the Test series against Sri Lanka in the UAE is clearly enjoying his stint at the SuperStars T20. Representing the Multiplex Dubai Royals, the Pakistani opener scored 46 off 51 deliveries in his first game to lead his team to an impressive 8 wicket victory against the Hyderabad Nawabs.
Clearly overjoyed with his form so far in the UAE, Manzoor expressed to PakPassion.net his satisfaction with the decision to participate in the SuperStars T20 tournament, stating that “I had the opportunity to go to the UK this season but I decided to come to the UAE instead as this is Pakistan’s new home away from home and I really wanted to get accustomed to these conditions. SuperstarsT20 is good preparation for the upcoming international season.”
Whilst the SuperStarsT20 tournament may not have the international acclaim associated with the likes of the IPL, Manzoor, who is a veteran of 14 Test matches where he has a highest score of 146 and also has 7 fifties to his name, was clearly impressed with the high standard of cricket that he has encountered so far.
“I must say that I was surprised with the high standards of cricket in the first match. To be honest, I have to admit that the first 2-3 overs were a real struggle for me to just stay at the crease. The Hyderabad Nawabs bowling attack which was led by a fellow Pakistani — Mohammad Sami — was very impressive and I am very happy with the tough workout I got in the middle.”
The city of Dubai which boasts such high class international arenas such as the Dubai Sports City stadium as well as the ICC Cricket Academy has definitely raised the bar for venues in the region. A recent addition to this distinguished list of stadia is the Fairground Oval which is the venue for the SuperStars T20 tournament. With a lush green outfield and turf wicket, the quality of the venue has really impressed Manzoor.
“The facilities provided in the SuperStars T20 are of very high standards. The ground and the pitches are also very impressive and I have to say that in some ways, they are even better than most of the facilities I have played back home in Karachi.”
Khurram is mainly recognized as a Test batsman, but has also represented Pakistan in seven One-Day Internationals (ODIs), where he has scored 3 fifties. He is yet to make his debut in the T20 format for Pakistan but given his first performance in this tournament, it would be fair to expect him to make an entry in the T20 format at some point in the future. This is probably an important factor in his determination to succeed for his team “I am really looking forward to putting in strong performances for Dubai Royals and contribute to the success of this team in what is regarded as one of the toughest tournament in the Middle East,” he concludes.
(Amir Husain is Senior Editor at PakPassion.net. The above article is reproduced with permission from http://pakpassion.net/)
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