x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

From wasteland to cricket pitch, Abu Dhabi's army create cricket league

Inspired by watching the World Cup final, the Abu Dhabi Armed Officers Club lay the foundations for the UAE's newest cricket league in one month.

Young Generation, in orange, and Royal Challengers were in action during the first round of cricket matches organised by the Abu Dhabi Armed Forces Club last Friday. The league was set up seeing how the 50-over World Cup, held in India, had been received by the officers watching.
Young Generation, in orange, and Royal Challengers were in action during the first round of cricket matches organised by the Abu Dhabi Armed Forces Club last Friday. The league was set up seeing how the 50-over World Cup, held in India, had been received by the officers watching.

One short month was all the time needed for the UAE's newest cricket pitch to be laid and for the country's latest league to be formed. And to think this sport is too slow for some spectators.

The first round of matches of the Abu Dhabi Armed Forces Club's new cricket league took place last Friday on an area which only four weeks ago was nothing more than wasteland on the club's vast area of land.

It is still not quite Lord's or the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

But considering the length of time needed to turn it into somewhere cricket can be played properly, it is quite an achievement by all involved.

The wicket is concrete and the outfield is brown rather than lush green, but that did not matter shortly after 8.30am on Friday morning when the first over was bowled.

This all began on April 2, the day of the 50-over World Cup final between India and Sri Lanka took place. The capital club's staff packed the cinema hall in huge numbers to watch the game and upon seeing what cricket meant to their people, a decision was taken by the management to stage an internal cricket tournament.

And why wait to get things done?

Amin Bagdadi, an Armed Forces Officers Club staff member, who is chairman of this new cricket board, officially launched the tournament on the Friday morning, the end result of the busiest month of his life.

He said the tournament involved 15 teams with at least 15 players per team and will take place over the next four weeks. "To get this up and running so soon is a testament to the tremendous hard work which has gone on at the club by so many people," he said.

"The guys couldn't believe it when they came down to look at the pitch because there was absolutely nothing here at all a month ago. Now the ground is level, we have had a concrete wicket put down similar to the ones you have at Zayed Sports City and in just a few weeks it has gone from wasteland to a cricket field.

"It's incredible that this all came together in one month."

Bagdadi thanked Lt Gen Mohammed Hilal al Kaabi, the club chairman, and Saeed al Dhaheri, the director general, who gave permission to have the pitch built.

Many sports are flourishing in the UAE and cricket is certainly one of them. There were volunteers at the club at 5am on the morning of the game to help with the final touches.

"The games are going to be 12 overs and there will be a lovely trophy over at the end for the winners," Bagdadi said. "And once the tournament is over, the best players will be picked for a team to take part in an inter-hotel competition in Abu Dhabi. We have some really good players in every team, but then you do see the sport played all over the UAE."

Khalid Rahman, the club's purchasing manager, is captain of his own department's team. A keen batsman and cricket fanatic, he will get his first chance to shine this Friday.

"There have been some great games so far," he said. "A player called Babar scored 89 on the first day and that gives an indication of the quality we have here.

"Even if we did not have this tournament, the staff would play cricket on their day off. You see that every Friday at Zayed Sports City and in car parks and any available space in the city: it is filled with cricket being played.

"From the club's point of view, we also wanted to get people to interact with an actual work environment. There has been a lot of work put in to get this up and running and the matches so far have been excellent."

The only stumbling block for cricket in the UAE is a shortage of pitches. Give the industrious gentlemen at the Armed Forces Club a year and they probably could build 100 of them.

 

ncameron@thenational.ae