x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Sharjah ready for spotlight when IPL visits

Of the three venues that will stage 20 Indian Premier League (IPL) games this month, it is perhaps the Sharjah Cricket Stadium to which the hosting will mean the most.

Sharjah Cricket Stadium has hosted many big matches recently, such as when Afghanistan fans filled the stands to watch the ICC World Cricket League Championship match between Afghanistan vs Kenya back in October 2013. But the IPL will be a different story. Pawan Singh / The National
Sharjah Cricket Stadium has hosted many big matches recently, such as when Afghanistan fans filled the stands to watch the ICC World Cricket League Championship match between Afghanistan vs Kenya back in October 2013. But the IPL will be a different story. Pawan Singh / The National

Of the three venues that will stage 20 Indian Premier League (IPL) games this month, it is perhaps the Sharjah Cricket Stadium to which the hosting will mean the most.

That stadium, which hosts the world record for staging the most one-day internationals at a single venue, was where whatever glamour cricket could boast of in the 1980s and 1990s was usually found.

Film stars from India, TV stars from Pakistan, musicians and fabulously wealthy businessmen used to congregate in Sharjah as an annual ritual in October-November for a Pakistan-India match.

Today, there is no snazzier cricketing event than the Indian Premier League (IPL).

So when the IPL arrives in Sharjah on April 17, with a game between Delhi Daredevils and Royal Challengers Bangalore, it will be, in some ways, a restoration of the old glittering order.

“It is a huge thing for us, for sure,” said Mazhar Khan, the general manager of Sharjah Cricket and a veteran of those early glory days.

“We have seen those days, with those hyped-up games, and we were the only venue here then. We were the first to bring together Bollywood and that glamour, so we always had this pulse.

He said “we still remember” when the Indian film stars Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor attended matches in Sharjah, “and now a new generation is going to.

“Now that it is coming back; it is more exciting for us.”

The stadium went unused for top-flight international cricket for over eight years before marking a return on the world map in November 2011.

It underwent extensive renovations for that occasion, and though it has since hosted a few more Pakistan internationals, more work has been taking place for the IPL.

It may not boast the modernity of the stadiums at Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but it has a history.

“There is work happening,” Khan said. “We are upgrading the VIP lounges. The seating in some enclosures, such as the members’ enclosures, are being changed, and there is a bit of other stuff going on.

“About four years back we carried out renovations, but we felt we needed to make it even better for the IPL. There were certain areas we felt we needed to upgrade, and all that should be ready in the next couple of days.”

The IPL announced on Saturday that 40,000 tickets were sold online in three days, but the major rush, predicted Khan, will come when tickets become available at stadiums and other outlets today.

“There is a tremendous buzz around,” he said. “It’s going to be a massive thing for all of us.

“People are planning to come down from the UK, other Gulf countries and India. The tickets sold so far are all to people who can go online.

“We are going to get good sales when the outlets start selling, when people know where they can go to get them, like the stadiums and other outlets.”

osamiuddin@thenational.ae