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).