x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Abu Dhabi ready for action

Dilawar Mani says the Abu Dhabi Cricket Council are ready to host Test matches at short notice if the security situations in India and Pakistan prevent series' from being held there.

ABU DHABI // Dilawar Mani, the chief executive of Abu Dhabi Cricket Council, has said they are ready to host Test matches at short notice if the security situations in India and Pakistan prevent series' from being held there. India's tour to Pakistan is in doubt because of the threat of terrorism there, while the horrifying attacks in Mumbai also put a huge question mark over next month's Tests between India and England.

Abu Dhabi are willing to host the series between Pakistan and India - as are Sharjah, and England - and are preparing the pitch at Zayed Stadium for Test-level matches. The stadium held a one-day series between Pakistan and the West Indies earlier this month. "I reiterate we have not got any hint or request from the Pakistan Cricket Board. But I know that if we do - and I stress, if we do - it will be at a very short notice," said Mani.

"Test matches are different. They are even contests between the bat and ball. So to be prepared for that eventuality, I have taken the initiative of preparing for a Test series." Mark Benson, who umpired the series between Pakistan and the West Indies, has said that the Zayed Stadium pitch would stand up for a five-day Test match. India players are reportedly unwilling to travel to Pakistan, and with the attacks in Mumbai reducing the chance of them hosting the series instead a neutral venue is likely to be considered.

Pakistan have a contract with Dubai Sports City to hold Twenty20 games there, although the stadium will not be ready until March at the earliest. If the England and Wales Cricket Board refuse to play their two Tests in India, a neutral venue could also be considered. The comments came close on the heels of reports that the senior Indian players - the captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag - were not keen on touring Pakistan. Any possibility of switching the tour with Pakistan's reciprocal tour of India in 2010, which was to be the second option, has diminished with the recent crisis.

There were also rumours that one possibility was playing ODI the five ODIs in Pakistan and the Tests at the neutral venue of choice. Pakistan has a contract with the Dubai Sports City to host a certain number of T20 matches though the stadium is unlikely to be ready before March. The ADCC hosted Pakistan's three-match one-day international series against West Indies last fortnight and everyone, including the ICC-appointed match officials were impressed with the venue and the facilties, labelling them as among the world's best. The senior Pakistan Cricket Board officials, including the chairman Ijaz Butt, did a recce of the two stadiums in the UAE and reportedly asked for the time frames to have them ready at short notice.

Butt was due to travel to India to convince their neighbours of foolproof security. The Indian government was to take a decision in the next 10 days though this could change now. Pakistan had played West Indies for two Tests in Sharjah in 2002. It was the only instance of a bilateral series on neutral soil in the now 134-year history of Test cricket. Incidentally, Pakistan's television rights for the next five years went to the Dubai-based Ten Sports channel. The company is owned by the Emirates Cricket Board president Abdur Rehman Bukhatir and one reason for putting in the winning bid of $140.5million (Dh515m) for cricket in the beleaguered country could be the possibility of playing some matches in the UAE.

Tests on neutral soil 1912: Australia v South Africa in England (in a triangular series with the hosts) 1999: Pakistan v Sri Lanka in Bangladesh (for the Asian Test Championship final) 2000: Pakistan v West Indies in Sharjah, UAE Related reports, s6-7 England call off their tour of India Champions League postponed