Emirates Cricket Board gears up to host Asia Cup

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UAE will be the venue for September's Asia Cup.

While India will not be able to host the Asia Cup in September due to political tensions with Pakistan, the impasse has turned into a boon for the Emirates Cricket Board.

The decision to move the Asia Cup out of India, due to improbability of Pakistan players getting Indian visas, and to moving it to the UAE has given the Emirates Cricket Board an opportunity to host one of the biggest tournaments in its recent history.

Emirates Cricket Board chairman Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan said: “This is a very important tournament in the ACC (Asian Cricket Council) calendar, and one we are extremely pleased to secure, especially during the auspicious ‘Year of Zayed’. We extend our sincere thanks to the ACC, Asia Cup hosts BCCI, and all Member Unions for their trust and unanimous support.”

With the highly awaited IndiaPakistan clash on the anvil, the race is on between the Dubai International Stadium and the Sheikh Zayed stadium in Abu Dhabi to get their hands on the mouthwatering fixture.

The seating capacity at the Sheikh Zayed stadium is being increased.

The seating capacity at the Sheikh Zayed stadium is being increased.

The stadium in Abu Dhabi is currently undergoing a facelift and expansion which will see it capacity increase to around 25,000 from 20,000.

Describing the Indo-Pak clash as the world’s biggest cricket event, Abu Dhabi Cricket acting chief Matt Boucher expressed excitement at the prospect of hosting the tournament.

“We have worked hard over the past three months to restructure some of the stadium,” he was quoted as saying by the National.

“We are targeting a 25,000 capacity so that we are able to host the world’s biggest cricket event. We will be competitive.

“We are waiting on instructions from the Asian Cricket Council and BCCI. We have reserved the venues, and we will get ready for the next steps.

“We as the UAE are thrilled to be chosen, and very pleased Abu Dhabi is a venue. We are looking forward to working with the ACC and hosting India, which is obviously very rare in this part of the world. It is hugely exciting.”

The schedule for the tournament is yet to be released by the Asian Cricket Council (ACC). The Asia Cup is slated to take place in September this year.

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Australia cricket hits the jackpot with billion-dollar broadcast deal

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Australia’s TV rights were sold for a record AUS $1.182 billion ($919m, Dh3.3bn) to Fox Sports and Seven Network, ending the four decade run of Channel Nine.

Cricket Australia announced the deal on Friday which includes broadcast and digital rights for six years.

Seven takes over the free-to-air rights from Channel Nine and will broadcast all Test matches along with all women’s internationals as well as most of the Big Bash League and women’s BBL.

Fox will show the matches that will be broadcast on free-to-air by Seven but for the first time in four decades, all ODIs and T20Is will be shown only on pay TV – Fox.

The Big Bash League has been expanded to a full home and away format resulting in a roster of 59 matches, up from 43 last season. The additional 16 matches will be shown exclusively on Fox.

In the women’s BBL, 23 matches will be shown on Seven and Fox, while 36 will be broadcast on Cricket Australia’s website.

“Our thanks go to Channel Nine, who for more than 40 years has broadcast international cricket at a world-renowned standard – and in so doing has done more to promote our sport than any organisation in Australian cricket history,” Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland said.

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County Championship: Rising bonhomie between England and India in focus as season begins

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Pujara is now a regular on the county circuit.

The county season begins on Friday. The IPL is on, so many cricket fans are likely to have T20 rather than red ball cricket in their minds and on the screens. But one little detail has placed the County Championship very close to the limelight, if not right into it. And that’s the presence of prominent India players.

India are scheduled to play five Tests in England in the summer. And learning from their decision to not play any substantial practice games in South Africa before their tour of the country earlier in the year – where India got progressively better as they played more cricket  – the BCCI has allowed Virat Kohli, among others, to play county cricket ahead of the Test series that starts in August.

Kohli will join Cheteshwar Pujara, Ishant Sharma, Axar Patel and most probably Ravi Ashwin in England. Add out-of-favour fast bowler Varun Aaron to the list and you have a sizeable Indian contingent in the county circuit, albeit at various stages as Kohli and Ashwin are playing in the IPL.

It’s an amazing turn of events. England, for years, did not take the IPL seriously which resulted in top English players not being provided a clear calendar to feature in the league. But after Kevin Pietersen became an ardent supporter of the IPL and the England board started to see possible benefits to their white-ball game, cricketers from the country were made available for almost the entire duration of the league. This year sees a record 12 England players in the IPL.

Similarly, India have been accused of not taking pre-series preparation seriously. They showed up for the 2011 England tour ill-prepared and were thrashed 4-0. Also, there was next to no training before the South Africa tour.

This year India can’t be accused of not preparing well. So there has been a sea change in attitudes on both sides.

However, Indian players’ presence on the county circuit has not gone down well with some in England. Bob Willis believes a player like Kohli should be “made to suffer” instead of being allowed to improve his game. Safe to say there are other traditionalists who agree with Willis.

Counties themselves are unhappy that they have to make do without top English players for a big chunk of the championship as they are currently in India. Since most of the top cricketers in the world are already at the IPL, it means counties don’t have access to the players they want.

Which makes the presence of Indian players in the championship interesting and some sort of a compensation for the ‘loss’ suffered due to the IPL. Obviously, the Indian players won’t come cheap but at least it will raise the profile of the games from a viewer’s perspective and, hopefully, produce good results for the counties.

India and England cricket boards have maintained a strange relationship over the years, ranging from mild distrust to great bonhomie (as was seen during the ‘Big Three’ takeover attempt of the ICC along with the Australians). The working relation they have reached now seems sustainable and beneficial.

While England cricketers will get to improve their game in the IPL, even if the risk of fatigue and injury remains, Indians can now work towards ironing out their deficiencies on foreign soil not only this year but in future as well.

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