No boundary limits for Abu Dhabi Cricket as it's more than just cricket in the capital

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Sheikh Zayed Stadium has regularly hosted Pakistan's matches

Judging from their name alone, it would be easy to believe cricket is the only sport on the agenda at Abu Dhabi Cricket.

But anyone who has visited the facilities surrounding the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in the last year or so would think otherwise. As their slogan ‘Every Day is Game Day’ suggests, it’s a lot more than just cricket that is being staged on their own doorstep.

Today, football, netball, basketball, squash, touch rugby and table tennis are just a handful of the sports played and that’s all down to the vision of Abu Dhabi Cricket.

It was back in March 2017 Abu Dhabi Cricket was reborn under the support of Abu Dhabi Sports Council. It meant the end of Abu Dhabi Cricket Club but the move provided an opportunity to enhance the facilities which were already in place.

That was the 20,000-capacity Sheikh Zayed Stadium which has hosted elite international cricket since 2006, two nursery ovals, the Zayed Cricket Academy and the dirt pitches used during domestic tournaments at the weekends.

But even though Abu Dhabi Cricket Club had done an excellent job, there was always room for expansion.

“One of the first challenges we faced was to improve the hardware,” said Matt Boucher, acting CEO of Abu Dhabi Cricket.

“We felt from Abu Dhabi Sports Council’s perspective that the hardware wasn’t as good as it should have been. The academy wasn’t in great shape, the Ovals could have been better and now we have focused a lot on those.

“The main stadium needed a significant touch-up and a lot of that is still to be done. The list is long. We have certainly focused on areas of hardware, equipment and real core facility areas that needed to be improved.”

Those improvements are there to see. The Sheikh Zayed Stadium’s capacity is now increased to 25,000 after the grass mounds at the East and West ends were transformed, the academy’s facilities including nets and practice fields have been revamped while the nursery ovals have had 500-lux LED Musco floodlights installed.

While that enhances the cricket infrastructure, it only counts as a small fraction of the work they have put in.

With a million-squared metre acre space at their disposal, the scope was there to open the doors to other sports and Abu Dhabi Cricket did exactly that.

For instance, the car park, when not in use outside the main stadium, is turned into netball courts for schools and the Abu Dhabi Netball League. That will only be temporary with four netball courts under construction.

Earlier this year in March, eight astroturf and floodlit football pitches were built, offering people in the capital an alternative venue to have a kick-about at an affordable price.

That is on top of two brand-new FIFA-approved grass pitches which were used as training hubs in last year’s FIFA Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi and again be a venue for the upcoming edition as well as the 2019 Asian Cup in January. In the coming months, there will be three FIFA-quality 11-a-side pitches with construction already under way.

Aerial shot of Abu Dhabi Cricket with their football pitches

Aerial shot of Abu Dhabi Cricket with their football pitches.

The massive facelift has certainly made a big impact and with their marketing team pushing the message through social media and word of mouth, news has quickly spread that Abu Dhabi Cricket is the place to visit.

From next month in September, there will be 25 companies on their books which they have partnered with. These include a number of UAE-based organisations as well as the Juventus Football Academy, who hold their youth coaching programmes at the ground.

On the cricketing front, their academy is now known as Zayed Cricket Academy in partnership with Gary Kirsten Cricket after joining hands with 2011 World Cup winning-coach Gary Kirsten’s academy in December.

The ex-India and South Africa supremo will be sharing his knowledge to the UAE’s stars of tomorrow across four coaching classes beginning from October as part of a two-year partnership with his Gary Kirsten Cricket institution.

The link up means the academy will now pick the brains of Oscar Nouhous, a member of Gary Kirsten Cricket’s coaching staff, after moving to Abu Dhabi permanently having been in the job for two months on a trial basis.

Even before the partnership, the aspiring cricketers have been enhancing their knowledge and skills with a brand new coaching team while Abu Dhabi Cricket have tapped into their contacts book to bring the game’s biggest stars to the UAE capital.

Pakistan’s former skipper Younis Khan, ex-Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jaywardene and England’s Jonny Bairstow are just some of the elite to have passed on their knowledge to the UAE’s stars of tomorrow in the last 12 months.

As Boucher puts it, Abu Dhabi Cricket wants to pride themselves as being an elite venue for international cricket, but also attract the community which is paramount to the legacy they want to create.

“The fact that we have gone from zero multi-sport to 25 partners in the space of 14 months is a real reflection of how important we see that community base,” he said.

“When we first started the project in June 2017 a lot of people didn’t know about Abu Dhabi Cricket facility. Now, we have a lot of new partners that are looking at the facility as a potential host. It’s absolutely priority for us to provide community based sports solutions to Abu Dhabi because for us it is as important as hosting world-class events.”

England's Jonny Bairstow at Abu Dhabi Cricket earlier this year

England’s Jonny Bairstow at Abu Dhabi Cricket earlier this year.

Cricket is still the number one sport they want to host. Their calendar until the end of the year is pretty hectic with Pakistan facing New Zealand and Australia as well as five fixtures of the Asia Cup in September.

While the UAE capital will be in the spotlight during those weeks especially on the international stage, Abu Dhabi are preparing for a milestone occasion of their own in October.

Chris Gayle, Albie Morkel and Yasir Shah will be among the biggest names in action for the inaugural Abu Dhabi T20 Trophy tournament from October 4 to 6. It is their most high profile tournament on their calendar and sends out a ‘statement of intent’.

The line-up is pretty impressive with franchises from different regions set to come together for a three-day bonanza at Sheikh Zayed Stadium.

Yorkshire Vikings of England, Afghanistan’s Boost Defenders, Big Bash League’s Hobart Hurricanes, Pakistan Super League’s Lahore Qalandars and South Africa’s most successful T20 outfit Multiply Titans have all been confirmed so far with a sixth side expected to be confirmed soon.

With Abu Dhabi Cricket organising everything, they do not want to leave a stone unturned in their bid of delivering a spectacle which they hope will increase their brand on the world stage.

“The Abu Dhabi T20 Trophy is a different concept,” added Boucher, who confirmed the matches will be broadcast globally. “We wanted to do something different and have a fantastic cricket festival.

“We have taken some inspiration from the FIFA Club World Cup where we had different sides from different continents taking part and we liked that. We like the world coming together from different cultures. We also want to tap into the neutral audience to attract the families to come and witness a great game of cricket.”

As for the future, while Abu Dhabi Cricket’s focus is to continue attracting new visitors to the state-of-the-art facility.

“Our target is to become a global capital for world sport, not the global capital,” said Boucher. “Hosting the Asia Cup and the reaching the continent and international audience will be great double headers. It sings perfectly into the hymn sheet of where we want to be and our ambition in growing to be a world capital for world sport.

“At the same time, we want to develop as a sporting hub which is affordable for people and that is paramount for us.”

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Live Cricket Blog: Spotlight on Alastair Cook and Virat Kohli at Lord's

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Catch the latest happenings in the world of cricket.

Hello, David Cooper and the Sport360 team are in place to provide you with the latest news, comment and analysis on all things cricket.

Our daily blog will ensure you have all the latest updates throughout your day and week but we want you to get involved too.

Tell us your thoughts on what’s happening by tweeting @Sport360.

9:00pm – Spotlight on Alastair Cook and Virat Kohli at Lord’s

England and India are set to resume their battle when the two sides meet in the second Test at Lord’s on August 9. There are plenty of players from both sides who will be under the spotlight at the ‘home of cricket’ for various reasons. Two of them are Alastair Cook and Virat Kohli.

Read more on why the spotlight at Lord’s will be on the duo among others here.

Alastair Cook's form is in focus ahead of the Lord's Test.

Alastair Cook’s form is in focus ahead of the Lord’s Test.

8:00pm – Australia’s Pat Cummins a big doubt for Test series with Pakistan

Australia pacer Pat Cummins appears to be losing his race against time to get fit for the upcoming two-Test series against Pakistan in the UAE. The Aussie fast-bowler has been out of action with an injury since his exertions in the tour of South Africa earlier this year and is reportedly in danger of missing the Pakistan series.

Read more on this breaking story here.

Cummins is reportedly lagging behind in his injury rehabilitation.

Cummins is reportedly lagging behind in his injury rehabilitation.

6:40pm – Dale Steyn says Kagiso Rabada is a much better bowler than him

South Africa’s joint all-time leading Test wicket-taker Dale Steyn has showered praise on young Kagiso Rabada. Steyn believes that the 23-year-old youngster is a much better bowler than him at the moment.

Read what the South African great had to say about Rabada’s potential here.

Steyn has lavished praise on young Rabada.

Steyn has lavished praise on young Rabada.

6:30pm – India’s Jasprit Bumrah ruled out of Lord’s Test against England

India have been dealt a huge blow ahead of the second Test against England at Lord’s which gets underway on August 9. Pacer Jasprit Bumrah has been unable to recover from his thumb injury in time and will miss the second Test. Bumrah is reportedly bowling fit but not ‘match’ fit according to India bowling coach Bharat Arun.

Read more on this breaking story here.

Bumrah has lost his race to get fit in time for the Lord's Test.

Bumrah has lost his race to get fit in time for the Lord’s Test.

6:00pm – England’s Ollie Pope hoping to follow in Sam Curran’s footsteps

20-year-old Ollie Pope is in line to make his England debut when the hosts take on India in the second Test at Lord’s on August 9. The Surrey youngster is hoping to emulate Sam Curran’s smooth transition into the Test arena.

Read what Pope had to say with regards to his potential debut here.

Ollie Pope is in line to make his England Test debut at Lord's.

Ollie Pope is in line to make his England Test debut at Lord’s.

5:00pm – Spin in focus ahead of Lord’s Test between England and India

England and India are set to resume their battle in the second Test of the five-match series which gets underway on August 9 at Lord’s. Spinners from both sides could be key at the ‘home of cricket’ with the ongoing heatwave in the UK showing no signs of relenting.

Read more about the build-up to the clash in our talking points.

India will be tempted to play two spinners at Lord's.

India will be tempted to play two spinners at Lord’s.

3:00pm – ICC sanction second edition of T10 League in the UAE

The International Cricket Council (ICC) officially sanctioned the second season of the T10 League which will be held in November. The 10-over event begins from November 23 at Sharjah Cricket Stadium that will see eight franchises compete in an expanded 10-day competition.

Read more on this story here.

Eoin Morgan was one of the players to feature in 2017.

Eoin Morgan was one of the players to feature in 2017.

11:30am – Comment: Batting taken a hit because of bowling focus

KL Rahul's stumps go flying at Edgbaston.

KL Rahul’s stumps go flying at Edgbaston.

Cricket writer Ajit Vijaykumar says India’s onus on playing attacking cricket and taking 20 wickets in a Test match has effected their batting in the game’s longest format.

Do you agree?

Read his article, here.

10am – India sweat over Bumrah’s fitness

Pace ace: Jasprit Bumrah.

As India fell to a narrow 31-run defeat in the first Test against England, they must have wondered what could have been had they had the services of pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah.

Bhuvneshwar is already ruled out of the first three Tests but India would have secretly hoped that Bumrah recovers from his thumb injury in time for the second Test at Lord’s.

The latter has been out of action ever since he fractured his thumb in the second T20 against Ireland in Dublin.

However, Bumrah was recently seen doing some throw-downs in the team’s net sessions raising hopes that he could be fit in time for the Lord’s Test which gets underway on August 9.

Read more, here.

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Live Cricket Blog: PCB increases monthly remuneration and match fees for Pakistan players

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Hello, David Cooper and the Sport360 team are in place to provide you with the latest news, comment and analysis on all things cricket.

Our daily blog will ensure you have all the latest updates throughout your day and week but we want you to get involved too.

Tell us your thoughts on what’s happening by tweeting @Sport360.

7:00pm – PCB increases monthly remuneration and match fees for Pakistan players

Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) raised match fees and monthly remuneration of all centrally contracted players across categories after unveiling a new list on Monday. A new category E has also been introduced to reward performers at the domestic level.

Read how the contracted players across different categories will be impacted by the latest changes here.

6:30pm – Sourav Ganguly advises Virat Kohli to persist with batting line-up at Lord’s

While Virat Kohli has changed his Test line-up every single match since he took over the India captaincy, former skipper Sourav Ganguly has urged the current captain to resist that temptation in the second Test against England at Lord’s.

Read Ganguly’s advise to Kohli in full here.

Ganguly has warned Kohli against chopping and changing too much.

Ganguly has warned Kohli against chopping and changing too much.

6:15pm – India pacer Mohammed Siraj continues red-hot form

Mohammed Siraj continues to be on fire with the India ‘A’ pacer picking up four more wickets on Monday in the ongoing unofficial Test against South Africa ‘A’. This means that Siraj has now picked up 24 wickets and counting in three first-class matches following his excellent showing in England last month.

Read more on Siraj’s wicket-taking streak here.

Mohammed Siraj.

Mohammed Siraj.

6:00pm – Mitchell Starc nearing full fitness ahead of Pakistan Test series

Australia have been handed a boost ahead of their two-Test series against Pakistan in the UAE with pacer Mitchell Starc nearing full fitness. Starc has been sidelined with injury since April this year when Australia toured South Africa. The left-arm pacer has revealed that his recuperation is on track and he expects to be fully fit for the series in the UAE.

Read what Starc had to say about his rehabilitation progress here.

Starc expects to be fully fit for the two-Test series against Pakistan.

Starc expects to be fully fit for the two-Test series against Pakistan.

5:30pm – Prosecution argues that Ben Stokes ‘lost control’ in affray case

England all-rounder Ben Stokes’ affray-charge hearing continues in Bristol with the prosecution presenting their case. The prosecution has argued that the England star ‘lost control’ and knocked two men unconscious in the Bristol night club incident.

Read more on this breaking story here.

Ben Stokes' hearing is underway in Bristol.

Ben Stokes’ hearing is underway in Bristol.

4:00pm – James Anderson injures himself in freak golfing ‘accident’

England were given a major scare ahead of the second Test against India at Lord’s with pacer James Anderson suffering a freaking golfing accident over the weekend. The 36-year-old veteran took an almighty whack to the face while taking a swing with his England team-mate Stuart Broad on hand to record the video of the incident.

Watch Anderson’s freak injury which had Broad in splits here.

Stuart Broad was on hand to record Anderson's freak golf accident.

Stuart Broad was on hand to record Anderson’s freak golf accident.

12pm – England all-rounder arrives in court

England cricketer Ben Stokes arrives for the start of his trial at Bristol Crown Court in Bristol, south-west England on August 6, 2018. - Ben Stokes's international career will be placed in suspended animation when the England cricketer appears in a Bristol court on Monday charged with affray. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP) (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Ben Stokes makes his way into Bristol Crown Court.

10am – Bangladesh clinch T20 International Series against West Indies

Bangladesh's players pose with the trophy after winning the 3rd and final T20i match against West Indies at Central Broward Regional Park Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on August 5, 2018. (Photo by Randy Brooks / AFP) (Photo credit should read RANDY BROOKS/AFP/Getty Images)

Victorious: Bangladesh triumphed at Fort Lauderdale in Florida.

Bangladesh secured a hard-fought 19-run (Duckworth-Lewis) victory over West Indies on Sunday in the third and final clash of their T20 International Series.

The win meant the subcontinent side tasted a 2-1 success overall.

Bangladesh posted a more than competitive first innings 184-5, with opener Liton Das hitting 61 off 32 balls, and in their chase, the Windies reached 135-7. But, in a match shortened by rain, that wasn’t enough as D-L came into play.

9am – Stokes due in court

Ben Stokes will be missing for the Lord's Test.

Ben Stokes could miss the Lord’s Test.

England cricketer Ben Stokes will go on trial on Monday, accused of affray.

The 27-year-old all-rounder and two other men, Ryan Ali, 28, and Ryan Hale, 27, all deny the charge.

Read more, here.

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