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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the best option for hosting the first phase of the IPL, 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 Vohra has more.
Indians are coming after a 8-year hiatus and they will once again play a sort of ‘international’ cricket tournament in the UAE. This hosting of a segment of the Indian Premier League (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 to the gulf’s cricket hub.
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 International Cricket Council (ICC) headquarters is based in the Emirates. The first is that the UAE has qualified for the ICC World T20 2014 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 Board of Control for Cricket in India (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 Sunrisers Hyderabad play Chennai Super Kings. 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 England Cricket Board (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.
(Bikram Vohra has been a journalist for four decades. At the age of 27, he became Resident Editor of Indian Express’ Ahmedabad edition. In 1985, he went to Dubai to re-launch Gulf News, a publication where he was Group Managing Editor till 1989. A year later, Vohra took over as Editor of Khaleej Times and was with the paper till 1995. In the next two years, he worked on the launch of English daily, Gulf Today, where he was appointed its Editor in 1997. In 2004, he took over as Editor, Emirates Evening Post, in Dubai. Four years later, he joined Bahrain Tribune its Editor. After a brief hiatus, Vohra joined Media Dubai Sports City as Director in the latter half of 2009, while continuing to write columns for leading publications across the world. The above article has been reproduced with permission from Governance Now)
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