Spin king Yasir Shah turns Pakistan’s UAE home into a fortress

Yasir Shah has taken 109 Test wickets in the UAE. (AFP)
Updated 28 November 2018

Spin king Yasir Shah turns Pakistan’s UAE home into a fortress

  • Pakistan have lost only one series in the UAE since 2010.
  • Winner-takes-it-all clash against New Zealand set for next week.

LONDON: The sight of Yasir Shah bowling Pakistan to victory against New Zealand in Dubai this week was doubtless a bittersweet one for the country’s millions of cricket-mad fans.
While they would have been overjoyed at the at the star spinner’s match figures of 14 for 184 — a return that ensured his side set up a do-or-die clash in Abu Dhabi next week — the fact their side is playing over a 1,000 km away means they cannot see their heroes in the flesh.
But there is also little doubt that the UAE is very much a home away from home for Pakistan and one in which they have enjoyed the sort of success other sides would crave.
In the eight years they have been hosting Tests in the Emirates Pakistan have played 31 times, winning 15, drawing 10 and losing just six. Across that period they have played 12 series and lost only one. That last stat alone illustrates that an away series in the UAE is one of the toughest around — across the same period Australia have lost two home series.
Earlier this year it was mooted that, with Pakistan still a no-go area for top-class sides since the 2009 terror attack on the visiting Sri Lankans, the side would base themselves in Malaysia. But thankfully for Yasir and Co. a new deal was struck between the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) and the PCB that will see Pakistan remain in the UAE for the foreseeable future. The ECB even committed to their counterparts that they would significantly reduce the costs for hosting the matches.
While the side would prefer to play in front of their adoring fans in Karachi’s National Stadium or Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium, there is little doubt that the impressive arenas in Abu Dhabi and Dubai are very good alternatives and no one best illustrates this than their brilliant leg-spinner.
His 14-wicket haul in Dubai saw the 32-year-old become the first bowler to take 100 Test wickets in the UAE. Yasir, like many of his teammates, has never played a Test on home soil, but from the moment he made his debut in Dubai against Australia in 2014 he has looked every inch the best leg spinner since Shane Warne. Those 109 wickets have come in just 16 Tests at an average of 24.16 — very good for any bowler, exceptional for a leg-spinner.
Yasir will be the key man as Pakistan head to the winner-takes-all clash against New Zealand in Abu Dhabi next week. But if he highlights anything, other than being the best spinner in world cricket at the moment, it is that the UAE has become as good a fortress as the talented team are likely to find away from their real home. And that alone explains why they are big favorites to seal their 13th series win in the Emirates next week.


Poised for leap before pandemic, women’s cricket limps into future

Updated 30 May 2020

Poised for leap before pandemic, women’s cricket limps into future

  • While the final financial cost of the coronavirus shutdown will not be known for months, perhaps years, the early signs for women’s cricket are relatively positive

LONDON: Women’s cricket appeared poised for a great leap forward when Australia beat India in the Twenty20 World Cup final in front of a record 86,174 crowd at Melbourne Cricket Ground in March.

Less than three months since that heady night, though, it risks slipping back into the shadows cast by the men’s game after being grounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cricket boards are staring at financial losses ranging from significant to severe as a result of the coronavirus shutdown and there is a danger the women’s game will bear the brunt of the cost-cutting.

“This is a concern across the game, and in particular in countries where there isn’t an agreed model in place ensuring gender equity principles are built into the game,” Tom Moffat, the CEO of the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations (FICA), told Reuters.

“We are urging the ICC and the boards to continue to invest in sustainable foundations for the women’s game around the world.”

While the final financial cost of the coronavirus shutdown will not be known for months, perhaps years, the early signs for women’s cricket are relatively positive.

That does not mean there will be no pain, but it may not be overly inequitable compared to cuts the men’s game faces.

England’s centrally contracted women players volunteered a three-month pay cut and their board has put on hold plans to introduce 40 domestic contracts as part of its 20 million pounds ($24.72 million) investment in the women’s game.

Several uncontracted female cricketers have also been denied what was to be their only source of income after the launch of The Hundred competition was postponed to next year.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) will pay up to 24 domestic players a regional retainer starting on June 1 as an interim solution.

“The momentum behind the women’s game has been staggering in the last few years and it is still firmly our ambition to build on that,” Clare Connor, the ECB’s managing director of women’s cricket, said earlier this month.

“While we still intend to award those full-time contracts in 2020, we want to try to support our players as much as we can until that point.”