India seems to have warmed up to the UAE as a cricketing venue after earlier misgivings
The ICC Twenty20 World Cup’s shift from India to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was inevitable following recurrent waves of COVID-19 infections and the logistical difficulties of hosting an event featuring multiple squads. Over the last few weeks, the news first started as a source-based whisper before the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)’s top brass — President Sourav Ganguly and Secretary Jay Shah — spoke individually, clearly stating that India would host the championship in the UAE. Finally, the International Cricket Council issued a statement declaring that the tournament will be held from October 17 to November 14 with Oman stepping in as a co-host for the qualifiers. Once the BCCI scheduled the remainder of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in West Asia ahead of the T20 World Cup, it was no surprise that the premier championship too would follow suit. With its three grounds at Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah being in close proximity, the UAE cuts out the need for air travel, and teams can adhere to bio-bubbles in their respective hotels, an essential requirement in these fraught times of a constantly mutating virus. India hosted England earlier this year and the IPL too commenced this summer, but the pandemic’s surge meant that the league had to be suspended while a second wind was sought in the desert sands prior to the T20 World Cup.
That for a year India paused its domestic cricket makes it all the more difficult for it to suddenly lend its weight to international fixtures at home. Now that the ambivalence has been shed, it is interesting to note the emergence of the UAE as a popular neutral venue. Fans of a certain vintage would recall past jousts at Sharjah lit up by the legendary exploits of stars ranging from Javed Miandad to Sachin Tendulkar. And then India stayed away for a while as talk about bookies and off-field corrupt influences surfaced. Meanwhile, terrorism-scarred Pakistan kept the UAE as its home venue as nervous rivals refused to land either at Karachi or Lahore. Since then, India has warmed up to the UAE as a cricketing outpost while Pakistan has found a few visitors willing to play on its turf. As a second host for the IPL, the UAE has always stepped forward and India had an instant solution for its T20 World Cup hosting crisis. After winning the inaugural ICC World T20 in South Africa back in 2007, India has suffered a title drought and there is a case for course correction. But before that, its dual units have to tackle six limited-overs contests in Sri Lanka and five Tests in England.