Bienniel tournament moved from India over strained political ties with neighbours Pakistan
Emirates Cricket Board 'very proud' as UAE take over 2018 Asia Cup hosting duties from India
Abu Dhabi Cricket are confident the newly-refurbished Zayed Cricket Stadium would be ready to stage “the world’s biggest cricket event” when India and Pakistan meet at the Asia Cup in the UAE in September.
It was announced this week that the Board of Cricket Control for India (BCCI) would forego staging the event on home soil, because of ongoing tensions with Pakistan, but “host” it in the Emirates instead.
“Emirates Cricket is very proud for the UAE to be chosen as host venue of the Asia Cup,” Sheikh Nahyan, the Emirates Cricket Board chairman, said.
“This is a very important tournament in the Asian Cricket Council calendar, and one we are extremely pleased to secure, especially during the Year of Zayed.”
The solution means India and Pakistan, who once faced each other regularly on these shores, will play against each other in the UAE for the first time in over a decade.
Pakistan have regularly used the UAE as a temporary home for national team matches, as well as the Pakistan Super League Twenty20 competition.
Part of the Indian Premier League was also exiled here in 2014 as it clashed with the country’s election. It is possible similar will happen next year.
The ACC and BCCI have yet to set the schedule for the Asia Cup fixtures. With a 25,000 capacity, Dubai International Stadium is the largest cricket ground of the two tournament venues. As such, it seems in pole position to stage the showpiece event between India and Pakistan.
However, Zayed Cricket Stadium has undergone a facelift over recent months, which has extended the capacity significantly from its previous 20,000.
By September there will be space for 7,000 supporters on each of the grass mounds square of the wicket, taking the overall stadium capacity up to similar with that of Dubai.
Ground officials also believe there could possibly be extra scope to extend further using the sort of temporary scaffolding stands that are a feature of the 50,000 rugby venue at The Sevens, Dubai.
“We have worked hard over the past three months to restructure some of the stadium,” Matt Boucher, the acting chief executive of Abu Dhabi Cricket, said.
“We are targeting a 25,000 capacity so that we are able to host the world’s biggest cricket event. We will be competitive.
“We are waiting on instructions from the Asian Cricket Council and BCCI. We have reserved the venues, and we will get ready for the next steps.
“We as the UAE are thrilled to be chosen, and very pleased Abu Dhabi is a venue. We are looking forward to working with the ACC and hosting India, which is obviously very rare in this part of the world. It is hugely exciting.”