x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

World Cup or bust for UAE

Cricket in the UAE is approaching a year which, according to a top administrator, will make or break its future.

UAE players, here celebrating the dismissal of Sri Lanka's Chamara Silva during the Asia Cup at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore in June, could soon be celebrating a large windfall.
UAE players, here celebrating the dismissal of Sri Lanka's Chamara Silva during the Asia Cup at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore in June, could soon be celebrating a large windfall.

Cricket in the UAE is approaching a year which, according to one of the national team's top administrators, will make or break its future. The Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) have been handed a US$5million (Dh18.4m) incentive for the country to qualify for the 2011 World Cup. And the newly found riches would not end there. That total would be augmented significantly through media rights and sponsorship deals that accompany premium international cricket fixtures. However, there is a sting in the tail - they could see existing funding cut if they perform badly at next year's World Cup Qualifying Series in South Africa.

The financial details for 2009-2013, released by the International Cricket Council (ICC) this month, represent a significant increase in the resources and incentives available for developing cricket nations. In doing so they emphasise the benefits of success and the cost of failure. ECB administrator, Mazhar Khan, said that 2009 would be the key year in fulfilling their objectives of establishing the UAE, currently ranked 17th in the world, on the cricketing map.

He said: "It is a crucial year ahead for us. The coaches and the players are well aware of the challenge we face. We have experience and quality in our squad but we perhaps lack some of the physical fitness of other leading teams. "The tournament in South Africa will be a make or break time for us. If we qualify for the World Cup [to be held in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh] it will be dream come true. It would provide us with the chance to establish UAE as a cricketing nation. With the financial rewards on offer we could improve facilities and develop recreational cricket. We could even investigate giving the players professional contracts."

The qualifying tournament was to take place in the 25,000-seat Dubai Sports City stadium, but due to legal and logistical issues surrounding the import of Australian soil the event was moved to South Africa. As well as losing face and the opportunity to showcase Dubai as a leading cricket venue the UAE team lost home advantage. tbrooks@thenational.ae