When it first appeared as a commitment on the calendar, nearly three years ago, the only thing that was clear about the limited overs series between Pakistan and Australia marked for August-September 2012 was that it would not be held in the UAE. It could not be (the Test leg of this divided series is scheduled for 2014, incidentally).
The idea of playing international cricket during the summer months in the UAE was as outlandish as, well, playing international cricket during the summer in the UAE; the concept is so outrageous it is the analogy itself.
In the continuing absence of Pakistan as a venue the Pakistan Cricket Board had identified three potential venues in February: Sri Lanka, Bangladesh or South Africa.
The UAE was publicly ruled out, naturally because of the heat. Sri Lanka made best sense as an alternative venue; hot but not unbearable, a cricket destination and logistically sound because it was hosting the World Twenty20 after the series.
It was duly identified and locked down, only for Sri Lankan plans to launch a T20 league during the same period in August to scupper the idea. That is, in May, when the UAE first emerged as a candidate, though even then Malaysia, Zimbabwe and South Africa remained likelier options.
But eventually, after assessments of Malaysia and the UAE, the latter's familiarity for Pakistan and ready-made infrastructure for hosting an international series - as well as the cost-effectiveness and convenience for the broadcaster Ten Sports - proved decisive.
Understandably, the Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA) expressed serious concerns about playing in temperatures that can comfortably exceed 40°C and an especially oppressive humidity. But while it seems reasonable that no international cricket has ever been played in August in the UAE, it is also true that the heat has not ever discouraged the local club scene.
"Even I was a little shocked about how they are going to play because it can get so hot," said Imran Zia, who has played for various clubs in Abu Dhabi for the last 17 years, currently leads Adnoc and coaches at the MCC-Zayed Cricket Academy. "There are tournaments underway even now, night tournaments and during Ramadan there will be as well."
Club games, said Zia, have been scheduled during the summer early in the morning, starting at 6am to negate the conditions. Generally, however, they begin late afternoon or early evening and in Ramadan after sunset.
The three one-day internationals are scheduled for later than normal starts, at 6pm; these games, rather than the T20s which start even later, are in fact the subject of greater worry for the ACA, as much for the heat as for the prospect of finishing so late.
"We're concerned about the heat and we're not comfortable with the playing hours," the ACA chief Paul Marsh said recently.
"There are issues with the players playing sport at that time of night. How aware are players going to be? Are there any safety issues of playing sport at that time of the night?
"If you're standing there facing someone bowling at 150kph, are you going to be more tired at that time of day than you [otherwise] would be? Can they adjust their sleep patterns to play at that time of day?"
Even more than the temperature and the timings, the humidity, believe local players, will be the most problematic. The open construction of Abu Dhabi's Zayed Cricket Stadium - where one ODI is scheduled - may provide greater relief but Sharjah Cricket Stadium - home to two ODIs - and Dubai International Cricket Stadium (three T20s) are more enclosed, by construction and their surrounds, and so humidity will be acute.
The potential for injuries will be higher given that dehydration and cramping is almost inevitable. Although at a much lower level physically, the number of local players who suffer cramps is, on anecdotal evidence, high in the summer.
But the resulting dew might cause greater tensions. "The humidity will be a huge problem because of the gripping problem for bowlers," said Qazi Ayub, the head coach at the MCC Zayed Cricket Academy in Abu Dhabi.
"Being a cricketer, when you get on to the ground, the heat factor eases up a little. If you are fit, with good stamina, it doesn't bother you so much. If you struggle with fitness, then it will bring you down.
"But at 6pm, it will still be very humid and the dew factor will be massive, from the first ball to the last. It's not like other day-night matches where the dew becomes a problem in the second innings. Here it will be a problem from the start to end. I don't know how they will counter it."
If anyone will be prepared to counter this and atmospheric conditions in general, it is Australia, as Ayub points out. "They will pay attention to little details I'm sure whereas Pakistan may just say we're used to the heat so we'll be fine."
Having accepted that the series must go ahead, a reconnaissance team of officials from ACA and the Australian board will visit to assess conditions on the ground. Already a number of measures are under discussion to ensure players are as comfortable as possible.
"At this stage we haven't finalised what these measures will be but the types of things we have talked about are additional drinks breaks, greater ability for players to spend time off the field, the use of ice vests," Marsh told The National last week.
If it feels like the most brutal conditions cricket has seen, then it isn't. Almost exactly 10 years ago, in October 2002, the same two sides played two Tests in Sharjah. With morning starts that meant playing through temperatures that reached as high as 51°C during the day.
"It was 50° on the first day of our match," wrote Shoaib Akhtar in his autobiography, "and I had managed to bowl a couple of overs when my body temperature shot through the roof and I blacked out. I spoke to the management and said I couldn't do this anymore, my body was collapsing, and so I came back home."
Other, fitter specimens such as Matthew Hayden muscled through it but at considerable cost. Hayden batted over seven hours for a hundred in the second Test, likening it at the time to batting inside an oven. It took him three weeks to recover from that trial and six months to be back to 100 per cent.
Despite the example of Shoaib, Rashid Latif (who was Pakistan's wicketkeeper in those Tests), feels Pakistan's players may naturally be better equipped to cope with the conditions.
"Fast bowlers can struggle but players from India and Pakistan are mostly fine with it because many have grown up playing in similar heat," Latif said. "Shorter spells are the way for fast bowlers - in that series most guys bowled two-over spells - but as a keeper or batsman it doesn't affect you so much. When it gets colder that is probably a greater problem for our players."
Follow us @SprtNationalUAE