x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Idle Sharjah gets ready for action in hope for Pakistan's series

The Emirate stadium has a long and chequered history but PCB and ICC must agree if it can host part of the Pakistan "home" series against Sri Lanka and England.

In its prime, the ground has been host of 398 international ODI matches before a long lull and barely touched the 400 mark months back.
In its prime, the ground has been host of 398 international ODI matches before a long lull and barely touched the 400 mark months back.

SHARJAH // The Sharjah Cricket Stadium, the venue for some of the game's greatest moments, could return to big-time cricket this winter if organisers can get the ground back into shape and convince the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the International Cricket Council (ICC) to hold matches there.

Pakistan are due to play six Tests, about 10 one-day internationals (ODIs) and a few Twenty20 games during their "home" series against Sri Lanka and England in the UAE this winter, and Sharjah are keen to get in on the action.

Stadium officials, according to sources, have already sent out tenders for renovation work in anticipation and will be starting discussions with the PCB and the ICC in the coming days.

However, Dilawar Mani, the chief executive of the Emirates Cricket Board, said there have been no formal discussions yet on the possibility of Sharjah hosting matches during the two series.

"Sharjah, as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, is very much a part of the UAE," he said. "However, to have any games in Sharjah, they will, number one, need to undertake major repairs and upgrades.

"Number two, they may require ICC re-accreditation as an international venue because it has been some time since any game was played there, of any international stature.

"Thirdly, the Pakistan Cricket Board and Sri Lanka need to agree. It has to be approved by the PCB. So at this point, the fact is that nothing has been done on that ground."

The Sharjah Cricket Stadium has hosted 200 ODIs, a record for a single venue. Pakistan have also played four Tests at the ground, against Australia and the West Indies in 2002.

Afghanistan, who use Sharjah as their home ground, played two ODIs against Canada at the venue last year, but no Test-playing nation has made an appearance at the stadium since a four-nation one-day tournament in 2003.

The Indian government put a ban on their team playing in Sharjah following advice from a match-fixing investigation committee and without one of their biggest draws, the annual tournaments in Sharjah gradually came to a halt.

"Our first initiative is to spruce up the stadium and we are looking forward to reviving Sharjah with international cricket," said Mazhar Khan, the honorary secretary of the Sharjah Cricket Council.

"It is still early stages, but let's hope that we can get back into the stream.

"Once we are ready, then I am sure everyone would like to come and play at the famous Sharjah Cricket Stadium."

The stadium is surrounded by a huge population of Pakistani expatriates and, as in the past, full houses could be expected if Pakistan decide to play there. However, many challenges lie ahead.

"If Sharjah wish to host a game then obviously they have to formally approach not only the Emirates Cricket Board, but also the PCB will have to be approached and the ICC will have to be approached," Mani said.

"There are major repair works to be done. Seats are broken, the scoreboard needs fixing, the dressing rooms need fixing, the field, etc.

"So it is really up to them if they wish to make the investments, but I would obviously do that based on a formal approval from the ICC and the PCB. At this point of time, we have been formally requested [by the PCB] for Abu Dhabi and Dubai."

The schedules for the two series have not been finalised yet, but Pakistan are expected to arrive in the country around mid-October for the series against Sri Lanka, which involves three Tests, five ODIs and a T20. In January, they will return to take on England."