ABU DHABI // Dilawar Mani, the chief executive of the Abu Dhabi Cricket Council, feels the success of the one-day international series between Pakistan and West Indies could be the springboard towards providing further quality international action.
The obvious follow-up venture is Pakistan's enticing series with India scheduled to take place in January, but unlikely to go ahead as planned because of political unrest in the host country. Mani and his colleagues are standing by ready to offer an attractive alternative venue but only when all diplomatic efforts to salvage the tour have been exhausted. "Our own perspective is that we want cricket to be played in Pakistan," said Mani.
"We want cricket to flourish there. Unfortunately, the political situation is not helping at the moment, so should we be asked to provide facilities, we would react positively to such a request. "But I must stress we have not yet been asked because Pakistan are rightly waiting as long as possible for India to make their decision about whether they are going to tour." England, which has a large sub-continental population, had been suggested as an alternative, but Mani dismissed that on the grounds that the matches will have to take place in the early weeks of 2009 and could not realistically be postponed until the end of the British winter.
"So I would say the UAE is the best option," said Mani, "certainly here in Abu Dhabi where we can provide excellent facilities for our visitors, and possibly Sharjah which has a long history of hosting such fixtures. "The stadium there might need a little refurbishment but that should not be a problem." Mani was quoted during the Pakistan-West Indies series as offering the US$22m (Dh84m) Zayed Cricket Stadium free of charge to the exiled Pakistanis, who have not played any Test cricket in 2008. He explained, however, that his offer had been to stage the proposed two Test matches against West Indies which were eventually called off.
"I am not saying there will be a charge if Pakistan want to use us again," added Mani. "We will deal with that when we are asked to. But we are here to facilitate the playing of cricket, not to exploit a situation in another country for financial gain." Mani was exhilarated yesterday by the smooth operation he and his colleagues put together to host the three one-dayers between Pakistan and West Indies.
The atmosphere, particularly for the second match, was unbelievable," he enthused. "I am sure the supporters trying to get in that day pushed us over our [20,000] capacity. "When you get players of this calibre coming out to play in Abu Dhabi and putting on three entertaining matches like they did then it has to be a success. It was highly-competitive top quality cricket throughout. "We gave them excellent wickets for the batsmen to play on but the ball was moving around, especially in the evening, to provide something for the bowlers. I thought the West Indies were unlucky to have nothing to show for their outstanding efforts. To have somebody scoring a century in each match and lose them can be extremely upsetting."