DUBAI // Organisers of the first Gulf Cup of cricket solely for Arab nationals hope to spark a new era of Emirati participation in the sport. The UAE will vie with Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait for bragging rights in the Twenty20 competition, which begins on Saturday in Dubal. The timing of the competition is ironic. While a side exclusively made up of Emiratis represent the country for the first time, the official UAE team, who include only two Emiratis, will compete simultaneously for the ACC Twenty20 Trophy.
All four Gulf Cup teams also have representatives in the ACC competition, made up mainly by subcontinental expatriate players. "Our mission is to get more UAE nationals playing the game," said Alawi Shukri, the tournament director who is the only Emirati playing in the Gulf Cup to have represented the full national side. "This tournament is a great adventure, but it is not the solution. Our goal is to see cricket all over the UAE."
Mushtaq Mohammed, the former Pakistan and UAE coach, endorsed the ambitions of Emirati cricketers. "I had players given to me to be trained for a purpose: the ACC Trophy or a World Cup qualification tournament for instance," he said. "Back then the participation of nationals was few and far between, but my captain was Saeed al Saffar, a very talented local player. "If we dig deep enough I believe we can find many more Saeed al Saffars today. I am sure there are a lot more out there.
"It will require time. The awareness of cricket has to come from the grassroots level. If a boy has a cricket bat in his hands at eight-years-old, it will take 10 or 15 years to turn him into a cricketer. "This tournament is like an opening ceremony for those ideas." @Email:email@example.com