x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

What's it like ... to play in the first Gulf Cup of cricket for Arab nationals

Alawi Shukri says it was a dream come true when the UAE hosted the first Gulf Cup at Dubai Aluminium's cricket ground.

It was a dream come true to have a tournament played solely by Arab nationals, which happened when we hosted the first Gulf Cup at Dubai Aluminium's cricket ground. It was a goal I had set - to have my team of Emiratis to play in a tournament. I am just a boy from Jumeirah, so organising a cricket tournament involving four nations from all over the Gulf was not very easy. Now I know what it takes to organise an event, so it taught me a lot of things.

The beauty of this tournament was that we were all Arabic-speakers enjoying cricket together. So we all celebrated together at the end, even though we had lost to Oman in the final. Reaching the final, or winning it even, did not really figure too highly in my thoughts. If that was the sole intention, we could have invited along other good Emirati players, like Salman Farooq from Emirates Warriors, or Mohammed Tauqir and Fahad al Hashmi, who were playing in the ACC Twenty20 for the UAE at the time. If we got them in, we would have been better than the Omanis, I think. Beating Saudi Arabia in the decisive group game was a nice feeling, but losing the final was not a big problem.

Playing this tournament was an achievement on its own. It was not about winning or losing, it was about promoting cricket among Arab nationals. We were dismayed to hear comments from the ACC chief executive Ashraful Haq while the tournament was going on. He did not come to watch us play while he was here, yet decided we should not send a team to the Asian Games because we might embarrass ourselves.

That was annoying, but it will not stop us. We are still aiming to send a team to the Asian Games. This event was the first step. Now we want to take it further and, with the help of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, take the game into schools. Before the Gulf Cup I had lost interest in cricket. I was fed up with it, then one day Shahzad Altaf, my old coach, suggested I organise a tournament like this, the first Gulf Cup. Then I started making calls to see if it could happen, and there were problems and we were not certain it was going to take place until the first ball was bowled. The second tournament is planned for March in Saudi Arabia.

The challenge now is to keep all these national boys interested in the game. Alawi Shukri, captain of the UAE Nationals cricket team, first learnt the game from his Sri Lankan au pair.