Saudi Arabia in the market to stage T10 cricket tournament

Saudi Arabia in the market to stage T10 cricket tournament
Virender Sehwag could be one of the stars playing cricket in Saudi Arabia. (AFP)
Updated 24 February 2018

Saudi Arabia in the market to stage T10 cricket tournament

Saudi Arabia in the market to stage T10 cricket tournament

BANGALORE: Saudi Arabia, in keeping with its desire to host elite sporting events, could soon stage a T10 cricket competition, as the tournament — held with much fanfare in Sharjah last December — looks to spread its wings and establish a following across continents.
Shaji Ul Mulk, the chairman of the T10 League and its creator, signalled his intention this week “to take T10 global” and the general manager of the venue that hosted the first staging of the tournament in December revealed the Kingdom was being considered as a serious option to stage a franchise event of the shortest form of the game.
“Saudi Arabia has shown a lot of interest and is keen to stage the (T10) event at the earliest opportunity,” said Mazhar Khan, general manager of the Sharjah Cricket Stadium. “The first final was watched by a 15,000-capacity crowd and, according to ground officials, another 7,000 people were left outside.”
The first T10 tournament was telecast in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and featured stars such as Virender Sehwag, Eoin Morgan and Shahid Afridi. Those still playing at the highest level included Dwayne Bravo, Mohammed Amir, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Alex Hales. Kerala Kings, a franchise owned by Ul Mulk and captained by Morgan, won the competition.
Purists may bemoan the idea of a T10 hit-out in the unlikely setting of Saudi Arabia, but if it helps to spread the game, as Ul Mulk hopes it will, there will be few complaints. It could also help cricket finally establish a foothold in the Kingdom and be the spur to reach the standards set by Middle East neighbors the UAE and Oman. Nearly a decade ago, Saudi Arabia shocked the UAE in the 2008 ACC Trophy Elite in Kuala Lampur, but there have been few other achievements since.
Now, the large expatriate population, many from the subcontinent, can potentially look ahead to seeing some of their cricket heroes in the flesh.
The admission that talks are underway is further evidence of the General Sports Authority’s ambition to increase and diversify its portfolio of sports events. Boxing promoter Kalle Sauerland told Arab News earlier this month that “some of the plans that the Saudis have to bring big sporting events are very ambitious” and a tournament featuring cricket’s marquee names would definitely fall into that bracket.
Until this year, sport in Saudi Arabia has almost been synonymous with football. The national team reached the second round of the World Cup in the US in 1994, with Saeed Al-Owairan scoring one of the greatest goals in the competition’s history in the 1-0 victory over Belgium. The King Fahd Cup, held in 1992 and 1995, was the precursor to the Confederations Cup, which the Kingdom hosted in 1997.
But recently, the horizons have widened. The King Abdulaziz Horse Championship, with a total prize money of $17 million, has just been announced, and earlier this year the country hosted the Saudi PSA Women’s Squash Masters. February’s Race of Champions, won by David Coulthard, was the first-ever motorsport to take place in the Kingdom.
Boxing aficionados, meanwhile, can look forward to one of the bouts of the year in May when Oleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev touch gloves to decide who will be the undisputed cruiserweight champion of the world.