DUBAI // The Abu Dhabi Cricket Council (ADCC) will reinforce their commitment to youth development by hosting 39 junior matches in a fortnight at the Zayed Cricket Stadium - barely two months before their most high-profile international series to date. The capital's cricket bosses are finalising plans to host Pakistan and Australia for three one-day matches in April.
But, before then, the 20,000 capacity ground will play host to the seventh Nissan Gulf Cup, which was launched in Dubai yesterday. It is the Gulf's largest junior cricket tournament and this year it will involve more than 400 players, with sides travelling from England and South Africa to play. Dilawar Mani, the chairman of the ADCC, said: "We must be a part of it - it is not a choice. We have the counties coming in and the Pakistan-Australia series, and a few other international sides who also wish to visit.
"That won't in any way reduce our commitment to youth cricket. We have the same goals and objectives, to take the children to the cricket field. "When an international comes up, we obviously have to give that priority because we are an ICC accredited venue and we have worked hard to be one. I would not say youth cricket in any way suffers at this moment in time. "We continue to promote it and we never hesitate on coming forward. Even if we had to reschedule it, we wouldn't shelve it away or give anything else a priority, other than international cricket."
Of the tournament's 71 games, more than half will be played at the Zayed Cricket Stadium over 14 days. "It provides a wonderful opportunity for all the youngsters of this country to put their talent and skills on display, and to play in a world class facility like the Zayed Cricket Stadium. "We are very proud to be managing such a facility. It has now held eight internationals, and there is the possibility of three more with Australia coming here. It is a very enriching experience for the boys to play at such venues."
The Gulf Cup incorporates six different age-group competitions, as well as an inter-collegiate tournament. Manish Dhakan, a batsman for the Woollongong University, Dubai, is relishing the prospect of playing on the same square that will later be graced by the likes of Ricky Ponting and Younis Khan. He said: "Playing at the Zayed Stadium definitely gives an extra thrill to the players, that is why so many play in this tournament. In university cricket, most of our matches are played on cement surfaces, and anyone can bat on that. Turf wickets are better because they provide more of a challenge."