Few cricket stadiums can match the legacy of Sharjah Cricket Stadium – a venue which has borne witness to some titanic displays from the sport’s greatest icons.
From Sachin Tendulkar’s breathtaking ‘Desert Storm’ performance in 1998 to Javed Miandad stunning India with a last-ball six in 1986, Sharjah Cricket Stadium has ensured it will always have a place in cricketing folklore.
The likes of Dubai and Abu Dhabi might have established themselves as the premier cricket destinations of the UAE in recent years, but Sharjah remains the pioneer in introducing top-quality cricket to the nation.
Originally constructed in 1981 under the patronage of the Bukhatir family, the historic venue is the first dedicated cricket stadium in the UAE. It held its first international matches in 1984 when it played host to the inaugural edition of the Asia Cup involving Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka.
A testament to Sharjah Cricket Stadium’s longevity is the fact that it hosted four games in the 2022 edition of the Asia Cup held in the UAE.
In the time span of nearly four decades between these Asia Cup editions, Sharjah has hosted more international cricket matches than any other stadium in the world. In 2022, it even entered the Guinness Book of World Records for hosting a record 244 One-Day International (ODI) matches at the venue.
Besides the ODIs, Sharjah has also played host to 9 Test matches and 62 T20 Internationals. More recently, it was the setting for The Common Ground initiative undertaken by Mountain Dew. The initiative seeks to celebrate the special cricketing history between the two nations while aiming to bring fans from both sides together.
For this, Mountain Dew specially imported grass turf from both Pakistan and India to be laid out at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium. To mark the occasion, a blended cricket game between fans from both countries was held at the historic venue.
On the road to carving its own unique identity in the cricket world, one man has been a constant for the Sharjah Cricket Stadium. He is Mohmmad Jameel, the chief curator of the iconic ground.
Born in Sahiwal (Pakistan), Jameel came to the UAE in 1977 to work as a foreman for Abdul Rahman Bukhatir’s property company. In 1982, he joined the staff at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium as an assistant to the then-chief curator Mohammad Basheer.
“I didn’t know much about preparing wickets when I joined,” Jameel told us in his crisp Urdu. “I had a passion for the sport and a desire to learn.
“Since the first day, I have taken care of it (the pitch) and not bothered about working 12 or 14 hours a day. It’s really hard work but I love it.”
This passion has seen him establish his name among the top pitch curators in the region along with a rich CV with four decades of experience under his belt.
The art of preparing cricket pitches has become heavily modernised in recent years with the advent of new technologies and machinery. Despite these new changes, Jameel remains steadfast with his own, unique approach.
“I work with my experience, not modern technology and the high-end machinery,” he continued.
“I use very traditional types of work and with my experience, it results in the wickets we have.”
Amid the record number of matches held over the years in Sharjah, it is the India vs Pakistan encounters which hold a special place. Matches between the two arch-rivals and neighbours at Sharjah were common occurrences during the 1980s and 1990s, with several epic encounters taking place.
During this distinguished tenure, Jameel has enjoyed a front-row seat to these iconic battles between the two nations.
“Games between Pakistan and India have been some of my favourite moments in this job,” he stated.
“There is a huge expatriate population from the two countries here in the UAE and Sharjah. As such, the atmosphere in the stadium when these two teams play is just something else and cannot be rivalled.”
“Two of my favourite matches here happened in Pakistan-India matches,” he continued.
“The 1984 Asia Cup final was a great match, where India beat Pakistan. However, my personal favourite will always be 1986 when Javed Miandad hit that six off the last ball to win it for Pakistan.”
With the Pakistan-India games being so close to Jameel’s heart, it was fitting that he was there to witness The Common Ground initiative undertaken by Mountain Dew on the 23rd of October.
“It is an excellent initiative to bring grass turf from Pakistan and India over here,” said Jameel.
“We have previously imported clay from Pakistan to prepare the Sharjah pitch, so it is nice to see grass from both countries here now.
“I think Sharjah Cricket Stadium is the perfect venue for this initiative given the past history of iconic matches between the two countries.”
The Common Ground is the latest feather to adorn Sharjah Cricket Stadium’s stellar legacy, and Jameel remains its steadfast gatekeeper amidst the changing times.
“When I started I didn’t think I’d be part of this ground’s history. I am proud of what I have achieved here and I promise to keep going on,” he concluded.