Remarkable popularity of the event and knowledge of fans make for a great atmosphere at Insportz in Dubai.
UAE in with semi-final shout as Indoor Cricket World Cup continues to pull in the crowds
It is fair to assume indoor cricket’s powers-that-be took something of a leap of faith when they opted to award staging rights for their 2017 World Cup to Dubai.
The UAE national team are first-time participants, while Insportz is the first venue anywhere in the Middle East to host the competition. As such, coming here was never guaranteed to be a sure thing.
Some of the thinking behind the World Indoor Cricket Federation’s decision to go off the beaten track for this week’s event was to try to attract the attention of the ICC.
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Indoor cricket does not fall under the auspices of cricket’s governing body. Of the nine countries represented in the World Cup, those who are actively backed by their country’s cricket board are in the minority.
But Al Quoz is barely 15 minutes away from the ICC offices in Dubai Sports City on a clear run. Bringing this showpiece event to their doorstep might pique their interest, it was hoped.
There are already signs it might have worked. On the evening of Day 1, Will Glenwright, the ICC’s head of global development, tweeted his best wishes to the teams participating, and said he was looking forward to seeing the action.
Glenwright is well aware of the value variants of the game like tape ball and indoor cricket can have to his remit of increasing overall participation numbers.
If he is to take in some of the matches, perhaps it is lucky Glenwright has a background in rugby, too.
Spectators could do with broad shoulders to jostle for position to watch the matches, such has been the remarkable popularity of the competition so far.
The UAE have been the No 1 draw by a distance, which was also hardly guaranteed at a competition also involving India and Sri Lanka.
The crowds have been remarkably knowledgeable, too. For instance, when the UAE were cannily pursuing a second “skin” in their Day 2 match against defending champions Australia, one spectator bayed for a no-ball when an Australia bowler tried for a Mankad.
He was swiftly, and politely, admonished, by the majority. Because the bowler had not broken the stumps when he looked to see if the UAE non-striker was stealing, he was not fined the two-run penalty.
“They know about what is happening here and they are all coming from work and supporting us,” Vikrant Shetty, the UAE’s vice captain, said.
“It is not like we are a new nation who have never played indoor cricket before, like perhaps India.
“We have played a lot in this country. People know about it. It’s great. We are very thankful people have come here to support us. It helps us, motivates us and pumps us up.
“Because a lot of people are working, they are very comfortable about playing indoor cricket, versus outdoor, where you have to quit your job to play.
“The more people that play, the more leagues, the more knowledge there is. It is great for indoor cricket and the country in general. Playing in the World Cup will just advance that.”
The UAE eventually lost out to both Australia and South Africa on the second day of competition, but still managed to add four “skins” – or bonus points – to the three they took from an opening day loss to New Zealand.
Winless after three matches they may be, but they are still in with a shot at a semifinal place.
“I think they’re a great side,” Lyle Teske, the Australia captain, said. “They have exceeded our expectations of their abilities. They have definitely got some talent.
“The facilities are first class, and in terms of the crowd, it is always good to have home crowd advantage, and having an atmosphere like this is what the sport is all about.”