UAE taking correct steps to get cricket back on track after missing out on Asia Cup

Persistent rain in Malaysia’s Bandar Kinrara on Thursday put paid to the UAE reaching the Asia Cup on home soil after they were beaten by Hong Kong in a weather-affected final. (ICC)
Updated 06 September 2018
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UAE taking correct steps to get cricket back on track after missing out on Asia Cup

  • The UAE’s ICC rankings suggest they are better than teams such as Hong Kong, Oman and Nepal - and yet failed to qualify for the Asia cuP
  • The future looks much brighter off the pitch with the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) making all the right moves in recent months

LONDON: Persistent rain in Malaysia’s Bandar Kinrara on Thursday put paid to the UAE reaching the Asia Cup on home soil after they were beaten by Hong Kong in a weather-affected final.
But, in truth, bad weather cannot dampen the worrying sense that cricket in the Emirates is stuttering after a promising few years, and questions will now be asked about where cricket in the UAE is headed.
The cricketing landscape in Asia has changed considerably in a short space of time.
Afghanistan — with whom the UAE used to share associate member status — have flourished since gaining their Test stripes this year, and recently beat another former ICC associate member (Ireland) away from home.
With qualification for next year’s World Cup also secured, it is safe to say the game in Afghanistan is on an upward trajectory.
But things seem to have flatlined for the UAE since they qualified for the World Cup in 2015 — on the pitch, at least.
The UAE’s ICC rankings suggest they are better than teams such as Hong Kong, Oman and Nepal — all of whom they faced in this week’s Asia Cup Qualifier — but missing out on a place at Asia’s top table, as well as not reaching the World Cup next year, will definitely be seen as steps in the wrong direction.
However, the future looks much brighter off the pitch with the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) making all the right moves in recent months.
They secured the hosting rights for the Asia Cup in a deal with the Board of Cricket Control for India (BCCI) — the first time the UAE will host the tournament since 1995 — after it was announced in April that the BCCI would forego staging the event in India, because of ongoing tensions with Pakistan, and “host” it in the Emirates.
And further tapping into the popularity of the game among the UAE’s expatriates, the ECB announced the launch this year of the “UAE T20x” league, which will run from Dec. 19 to Jan. 11.
It will be a monumental step for cricket in the UAE, given the success stories of the Indian Premier League and Australia’s Big Bash League, not to mention that the event has already got the backing of seven full member nations, including England, New Zealand, South Africa and the West Indies, in addition to 12 ICC associate members.
“The number one aim of UAE T20x is to offer a developmental platform for the best young cricketers from around the world, and of course the UAE, to showcase their talent alongside the icons of the game,” Zayed Abbas, ECB board member, said last month.
“We want this new league to play its part in helping to grow the game,” he added.
And icons it will have, after England’s Eoin Morgan, South Africa’s David Miller and the West Indies’ Andre Russell all signed on to play. Nobody can deny that the ECB are certainly talking a good game.
The next step has to be putting pressure on the ICC, which has changed the format of next year’s World Cup, meaning it will be the first without an associate member — this move has been criticized for protecting the game’s elite rather than expanding its reach in nations such as the UAE.
If the steps taken by the ECB this year do achieve targets, foster a stronger cricketing culture in the Emirates, and results on the pitch begin to improve, the game in the UAE will be headed in the right direction once again.
By then, the ICC will have no choice but to sit up and take note.


Saudia partners with ABB FIA Formula E Championship ahead of Ad Diriyah race

Updated 1 min 13 sec ago
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Saudia partners with ABB FIA Formula E Championship ahead of Ad Diriyah race

AD DIRIYAH, Saudi Arabia: The ABB FIA Formula E Championship on Tuesday announced a new long-term partnership with Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) - the national flag carrier of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia - as official airline partner of the all-electric series and race title partner of the inaugural Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix.

Coinciding with the introduction of a new visa process for fan travel to Saudi Arabia, Saudia has come on board ahead of season five and the debut of Formula E in the Middle East on December 15. The announcement was made at a special event hosted at Governorate Ad Diriyah, following a roadshow through the Saudi Arabian capital with the striking new-look Gen2 car.

Felipe Massa – Venturi Formula E Team driver – got behind the wheel of the official championship car for the very first time, adorned with new Saudia branding on the rear-wing spoilers and on top of the nose cone.

In preparation for the highly-anticipated new era of electric racing and the opening round in Ad Diriyah, Saudi Arabia is to open to the world like never before as it launches a dedicated online visa process for international tourists.

Fans will be able to apply via the newly-created ‘Sharek’ platform, using an authorized ticket to permit entry to Saudi Arabia. The system will be implemented for the first time as the country gears up for the spectacle of Formula E - marking the introduction of easy application and verification for foreign travelers.

Alejandro Agag, Founder & CEO of Formula E, said: “It’s fantastic news that Saudia is joining the ABB FIA Formula E Championship as official airline partner – ahead of the first race in Saudi Arabia and the debut of fully-electric racing in the Middle East. The partnership continues to show the appeal of Formula E on a global scale and I’m proud to welcome Saudia to the Formula E family as the excitement continues to build for the opening round of season five on December 15. When you consider Saudi Arabia is opening-up to international sports fans for the first time and we have a new partner who can connect those fans to our series, it really is a strong additional to the championship.”

Saudi Arabian Airlines Director General, Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser, commented: “Saudia is pleased to be supporting the ABB FIA Formula E Championship for the upcoming event in Ad Diriyah – a first for Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. The airline welcomes fans from around the world to the opening race at the historic Ad Diriyah site and to come aboard with SAUDIA as we get set to wish the teams all the very best for the race and a new era of electric street racing, starting with the Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix.”

Beyond hosting the first fully-electric race in the region and staging it in a stunning UNESCO heritage site, hosts of the Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix, the General Sports Authority and Saudi Arabian Motor Federation have confirmed ambitious plans for the opening race of season 5 and the Kingdom’s debut in the championship schedule.

Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al-Faisal, Vice-Chair of the Saudi Arabia General Sports Authority added: “We really want to celebrate this moment with the people of Saudia Arabia, all those passionate fans and families who want to experience a live E-Prix for the first time. But with the introduction of a new visa process, now we can celebrate it with the world. It’s an opportunity we plan to grasp with both hands with the addition of soon to be announced spectacular line-up of live music, culture and entertainment featuring global stars as part of an unmissable three-day festival.”

The 2018/19 season of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship sparks into life in Ad Diriyah on December 15.