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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 October 2018

Steps to improve Abu Dhabi T20 already under way, says Matt Boucher

With first season done and dusted, Abu Dhabi Cricket's acting chief executive lays down plans for 2019 season

The inaugural Abu Dhabi T20 Trophy was played between good-quality teams, but not many people came to Zayed Cricket Stadium to watch the games. AFP
The inaugural Abu Dhabi T20 Trophy was played between good-quality teams, but not many people came to Zayed Cricket Stadium to watch the games. AFP

The inaugural Abu Dhabi T20 may have been short and to the point, but Abu Dhabi Cricket is taking the long view when considering the future of the competition.

Seven matches involving six teams split into two groups were packed into three days at the weekend. The teams came from established cricketing nations, the players were great, the cricket was high-quality, and there was genuine excitement in some of the exchanges.

And in the end, the best team won: Lahore Qalandars.

The only problem was it failed to attract more people than it did to Zayed Cricket Stadium.

But ADC's acting chief executive Matt Boucher said his organisation was looking at the big picture, and was focused on taking small but decisive steps towards improving the tournament year on year.

“We were not obsessed with the crowds this year,” Boucher said. “We wanted everyone who came here to have a good time.

“Our focus this year was on the players, player welfare, teams, team welfare, the hospitality and the logistics."

Matt Boucher of Abu Dhabi Cricket promises more fun and games at Zayed Cricket Stadium. Antonie Robertson / The National
Matt Boucher of Abu Dhabi Cricket promises more fun and games at Zayed Cricket Stadium. Antonie Robertson / The National

The Englishman said his organisation also placed great emphasis on such aspects as safety, technology and broadcasting in order to attract more players and franchises to come to the emirate in future seasons.

Boucher said he wanted the teams to leave Abu Dhabi with "a very, very positive feeling", which would then enable the ADC to ensure that when it returns to the market "in the next six or eight weeks" to host the 2019 tournament, "the community of professional cricketers will know Abu Dhabi is a good place to visit".

Boucher compared the first iteration of the Abu Dhabi T20 to inaugural editions of other tournaments held under the auspices of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, namely the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship and the ITU World Triathlon.

Both competitions, first held in 2006 and 2010 respectively, have gone on to become established events and gained global recognition. In fact, the capital has been chosen to host the ITU Grand Final in 2022.

In that context, “we have made a number of successes in hosting the first cricket tournament of our own", said Boucher, whose next set of targets includes promoting the event well in advance through marketing campaigns.

Another challenge for the ADC was scheduling, especially because the tournament coincided with the start of the Afghanistan Premier League.

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But Boucher insisted that the first week of October was the best time to organise the tournament.

“I like the slot from an Abu Dhabi – and Abu Dhabi tourism – perspective," he said. "I’m a fan of this weekend. It feels like [we are] starting the Abu Dhabi events season – and that is a positive."

Boucher is in favour of increasing the number of teams to six, perhaps even seven, in 2019, provided he gets "approval on that from the governing bodies" since it will require increasing the duration of the competition and adding more venues.

“Don’t forget: we have two support ovals, and if they are approved by the ICC [International Cricket Council], they become another option."