Home > Cricket Development, UAE > Opinion: Of UAE Cricket….

Opinion: Of UAE Cricket….

Dilawar Mani, who is Ehsan Mani's brother, has recently been appointed the CEO of Abu Dhabi cricket association. He talks about a couple of things that I have been mentioning must be done to make the UAE cricket progress further in an interview. One is to spread the game amongst the Arabs (you can call them UAE Nationals, or Emirati). The second thing is to make the domestic system coherent, and perhaps have inter city competitions. This is very important because currently a lot of crap cricket is taking place on the domestic front in UAE, where everyone who can hold a bat is playing in the domestic circuit, eventually leading to the top 100 or so player never really getting pushed and spending all of their time playing against players who are much worse than they are. Inter city cricket in UAE will definitely be something to look forward to, with Abu Dhabi taking on Dubai or Al Ain taking on Sharjah etc.

Now on some interesting questions about UAE. As we all know, the UAE is ethnically a slightly different country with the south asian expats outnumbering the local arabs. Official figures are that both ethnicities are 50 50. But un official figures, and these are the ones that many consider to be the true picture, seem to indicate that the south asians are nearly 75% of the population with the locals only the other 25%.

Here is my question, and I think this question is quite an important one regarding ICC's expansion program. Why is football the biggest sport in UAE? If 75% of the population (nearly 3 million people) is cricket crazy, then why are the UAE football matches always sold out, while the UAE cricket matches dont even make the newspapers all the time? Why no one shows up to watch UAE take on Bermuda (a team with higher ranking than UAE), while the stadium is full when Pakistan take on India? Why is it that local football club players in the UAE are extremely well played professionals, while the cricketers cant even get time off for playing intercontinental cup matches?

The problem here is that of identification and focus. It is precisely because of this reason that ODI cricket has been played in UAE since 1984 and nothing has come out of it. In expat based cricketing countries, it is very important to see whether the expats are backing the local team, or are they only interested in the cricket of their country of birth (and nationality too in case of UAE).

A requirement to only allow citizens of a country to play cricket will probably hurt UAE the most, which does not have a single UAE national (maybe one; Fahd Alhashmi) in their current team. It is my understanding that UAE does not even give UAE nationality to a child born in the UAE unless his parents are UAE nationals (for which there is no naturalization process).

Categories: Cricket Development, UAE
  1. June 7, 2006 at 3:12 pm

    As a resident of the Oman, a neighbouring country, I can confirm that 75% of UAE’s population is not south-Asian. Sure, there are a lot of South-Asians, but there are again a lot of non-Asian expatriates in the UAE. There are definitely more than 25% Emiratis in the country.

    As to why football remains the premier sport, a lot of the expatriate population is from other Gulf and Arab states, as well as the United Kingdom and parts of Europe. And the majority of the expatriate population from the subcontinent is confined to the lower rung of jobs; they make up MOST of the labourers in the country. So the actual expatriates playing cricket are very less in comparison; because only the more well-off expatriates from the subcontinents can afford to play cricket..

    Hope that helps shed some light…

  2. June 12, 2006 at 11:25 pm


    The statistics that I am quoting are from the CIA world fact book, and that is showing that ethnically, UAE is 50% officially south asian. And I have read and heard from a number of sources that these numbers are actually incorrect and the actual number of South asians is 75%.

    But even if I take your word, and go by at least the official numbers, that is 50% South Asian, so 2 million cricket loving people.

    Why is it that the stadium is full during Pakistan and India matches? with 30K people coming out to watch, while not even 300 come to watch UAE play ??? If that is how it is going to be, then the cricket economy in the UAE CANNOT be generated using expats, because if they font back the national team, how will the national team make any money? Why would anyone aspire to make the national team? Then essentially the UAE team is going to stay at the level that it is at right now.

    That is also the problem in USA, and maybe even the other Gulf countries. Unless enough locals play that the standard of the team is high because of their game, there seems to be no future for expat based countries. except that they are a good market for India, West Indies and Pakistan to exploit.

    I am quite sure Canada is in the same ring, but I will wait till the triangular is held in Canada in July before I comment. There too the stadium ca get 5K people for India and Pakistan matches, but I would be surprised if 500 show up to watch Canada, their adopted country, take on Kenya and Bermuda.

    It would be great if I am proven wrong.

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