Abu Dhabi Cricket’s (ADC) international season at the new-look Zayed Cricket Stadium facility will kick off with the much-anticipated opening Test match of the Pakistan v Sri Lanka series on September 28 to October 2.
Organised by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and hosted by ADC, this will be followed by four further matches, including the second and third One Day Internationals on October 16 to 18, and the first and second Twenty20s (of a three-part series) on October 26 and 27. The final game of the ‘T20’ series is slated to return to Lahore, Pakistan.
This constitutes a big draw for Abu Dhabi Cricket, whose showpiece 18,000-capacity Zayed Cricket Stadium and surrounding cricketing facilities have recently undergone an extensive upgrade, and is now primed to play host to the international cricket community.
Both the Pakistan and Sri Lankan teams will have access to its newly-constructed world-class cricket nets during the series, as well as eight immaculately renovated wickets in a brand new international section.
With the full support of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, ADC will host five of the eleven Pakistan v Sri Lanka games and is the only facility in the UAE to host any Twenty20 games in this series, demonstrating Abu Dhabi’s wider drive to grow cricket in the capital from grass-roots level all the way to international competition.
“We are thrilled the Pakistan Cricket Board has chosen Abu Dhabi to host international competition of this calibre,” says His Excellency Aref Al Awani, General Secretary, Abu Dhabi Sports Council.
“With our full support, Abu Dhabi Cricket is helping to revive this incredible sport to its famously fanatical audience amid world-class facilities in Abu Dhabi, while helping to nurture the next generation of UAE sportsmen and women and promote a healthier lifestyle.”
Najam Sethi, Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board commented, “We are pleased to play in Abu Dhabi and expect that this arrangement will be mutually beneficial for future tours as well.”
“This series of fixtures continues Abu Dhabi Cricket’s excellent working partnership with the Pakistan Cricket Board” says Matthew Boucher, Acting CEO, Abu Dhabi Cricket. “We are particularly pleased to be hosting all three formats of the game and to have been selected for the marquee Twenty20 ‘double-header’ on 26th and 27th October, where we expect to see a packed-out capacity crowd.
“Our thanks go to the Pakistan Cricket Board for their confidence in Abu Dhabi and to Abu Dhabi Sports Council for their unwavering support in executing our vision of developing and showcasing world-class cricket here in the capital.”
The wheels were set in motion last month with the launch of the new-look Zayed Cricket Academy, which, with the major upgrading of facilities at Zayed Cricket Stadium, is now the UAE’s most prestigious junior cricket coaching programme.
Open to both girls and boys of all abilities from age four up to 18, it will now operate a ‘Junior Academy’ for beginners aged 11 and under, as well as an ‘Senior Academy’ for those aged 12 and over who have played cricket for three years or more.
Tickets will be available soon and information will be posted on www.abudhabicricket.ae.
Shahid Afridi will not participate in this year’s edition of the Afghan Shpageeza Cricket League, the Pakistan cult hero confirmed on Friday.
Afridi, who recently featured for English county side Hampshire during last weekend’s NatWest T20 Blast Finals Day, was due to play in the Afghanistan-based tournament between September 11-21.
However, the veteran all-rounder, 37, tweeted that personal reasons meant that this now would not be the case.
Very thankful to AFG gvt, @ACBofficials &MuslimYar sb. Speenghar Tigers to invite me. But I have some vry urgent family issue comeup 1/2
— Shahid Afridi (@SAfridiOfficial) September 8, 2017
I look fwd to come in future & support the great iniative. I support bridging realtions via cricket for peace to unite nations. 2/2
— Shahid Afridi (@SAfridiOfficial) September 8, 2017
Afridi retired from international cricket earlier this year and is therefore allowed to continue his career as a freelance T20 cricketer, since he does not require a no-objection certificate to play in overseas tournaments from the Pakistan Cricket Board.
Groundsmen are rolling down the pitches, welders are repairing barbed wire, and workers are splashing on a new coat of paint at Pakistan’s centrepiece Gaddafi Stadium, which has witnessed both history and controversy – and is now preparing to retake cricket’s world stage.
Next week the ground will ring out with the sound of Pakistan’s national anthem once more as the home team takes on a star-studded World XI, the highest-profile international fixture in the country since a deadly militant attack eight years ago.
The three-match Twenty20 series will be played under tight security but it is, officials hope, a new chapter for Pakistani cricket – and for the Gaddafi Stadium’s bloody, scandal-plagued and, at times, glorious story.
Named after the Libyan leader who met a grisly end at the hands of rebel fighters, the ground has seen a World Cup final and militant attack, and has been caught up in Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions and geopolitical rivalries.
It is at the heart of the most tragic incident in Pakistan’s sporting history, after the Sri Lankan team had to be airlifted to safety when militants attacked their team bus near the stadium in 2009.
The attack, which killed eight people and wounded nine, drove international cricket – and most other sports – from the militancy-plagued country, forcing Pakistan to host its “home” fixtures in neutral venues.
The 27,000-capacity venue has still seen moments of glory even since its peak when it hosted the 1996 World Cup final, won by Sri Lanka against Australia.
– ‘You just feel the sadness’ -Emotions ran high when minnows Zimbabwe became the first international team to return in 2015, allowing Pakistan to play in front of their home fans.
But, even as security improves dramatically, Pakistan has laboured to convince top Test-playing nations to return.
“(The 2009 attack) was the biggest blow I think Pakistan cricket would have faced,” Haroon Rashid, the director of cricket operations for the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), told AFP.
“If you talk about that you just feel that the sadness is coming to you.”
Agha Zahid, the PCB’s chief curator, hoped that was changing. “We are starting a new life,” he told AFP.
Bullet marks from the March 3, 2009 attack are still visible at the cosmetics shop owned by Akbar Javed at Liberty roundabout, near the stadium, where the Sri Lankan bus was pinned down by militant gunfire.
Unlike PCB officials, he is not pleased about the stadium’s revival: security fears over previous big matches have forced him to close his shop for days, he says, and he expects similar problems for the World XI.
Others took a more cheerful view.
“It’s the best stadium in Pakistan,” said Tauseef Sadozai, manager of the nearby Dawat-e-Khas restaurant. “This venue has missed a lot of cricket… Losing a few days of business isn’t greater than losing international cricket.”
First known as Lahore Stadium when it was built in 1959, the ground was renamed in honour of the Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 1974 when he spoke out in support of Pakistan’s quest for a nuclear bomb.
After Gaddafi was killed in 2011, a grassroots debate began on whether Pakistan really wanted to link its greatest sporting passion to, in the words of one newspaper columnist, a “brutal Arab dictator”.
Six years later the name persists amid troubling times for Pakistani cricket.
In 2010, the year after the Sri Lankan team attack, Pakistan was rocked when then captain Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir were caught in a spot-fixing scandal on a tour to England.
All three were banned for five years and also jailed.
Spot-fixing also tainted what was meant to be one of the greatest moments at Gaddafi Stadium: the final of the popular Pakistan Super League (PSL) earlier this year.
Opener Sharjeel Khan was last month banned for five years over spot-fixing during the PSL, while Khalid Latif’s fate is expected to be decided in the coming weeks. Four other players have been investigated.
As for the name, the PCB’s new chief Najam Sethi last year called for the stadium to be rebranded in tribute to the late founder of Pakistan’s largest welfare organisation, Abdul Sattar Edhi.
Edhi’s work uplifting the nation’s destitute cemented his place in the hearts of Pakistan’s cricket-loving masses.
“It was actively considered,” PCB spokesman Amjad Hussain told AFP of the name change. “But no decision was taken.”