x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Sharjah cricket stadium gets Ijaz Butt's nod

The Pakistan Cricket Board chairman likes what he sees of the historic ground as preparations are underway for a Test match against Sri Lanka.

The refurbishment under way at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium has received a seal of approval from Ijaz Butt, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman.

The stadium makes a return as a venue for top-flight international cricket after a gap of more than eight years in October-November, when Pakistan host Sri Lanka for a series in the UAE.

"I was mainly interested in seeing the conditions at the stadium in Sharjah and it is looking in excellent shape," Butt said on Friday.

A PCB official said the chairman had also held a meeting with Haroon Lorgat, the International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive, in Dubai, though it is not clear whether there was a specific agenda other than the Sharjah visit.

Sharjah will host the third Test between Pakistan and Sri Lanka from November 3 and the fourth one-day international (ODI) of five on November 20. Apart from two ODIs between Afghanistan and Canada in February 2010, the stadium has not been used at all for international cricket since Pakistan played Zimbabwe in April 2003.

But efforts have been on to modernise it to match the two other, newer venues in the country, in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. With Pakistan not able to play international cricket in their country the venue is likely to see more international cricket in coming seasons.

"It's shaping up like never before," said Waleed Bukhatir, vice chairman of the Cricketers' Benefit Fund Series, which arranges matches at the venue. "We're gearing up well for the coming season. We want the stadium to be a state-of-the-art modern stadium. We're putting new seating in place and are confident that the venue will be ready when the season begins."

The new capacity of the stadium may be slightly reduced from its heyday to roughly 16,000 but Bukhatir said that would not affect the viewing experience unduly.

"We had to consider the new rules and regulations of the ICC regarding international venues so there were changes we had to make. … We're hoping that the ground will be much, much more of an experience than before."


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