In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the start to domestic Cricket season in England has been delayed. Abu Dhabi Cricket (ADC) are willing offered their facilities to the ECB from the month of October to January to compensate for the losses of the ECB due to the inability to host county and International matches at this period.
The UAE have been doing a good job by avoiding the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic with night time curfews in place, during which a disinfection programme has been carried out. Perhaps due to the action taken in the early stages of the virus’ spread, there are now hopes that much of the UAE will return to work as early as next week. It was announced on Thursday that malls and shops would re-open within guidelines, ahead of Ramadan which starts on Friday. Infection and death rates have, at this stage, been far below those seen in the UK.
This would not be the first time English domestic Cricket would be played in the United Arab Emirates. The Pro Arch Trophy back in 2009 was held there, with county sides Essex, Lancashire, Sussex, Middlesex, Yorkshire and Surrey taking part in it along with the UAE national team and the Fly Emirates XI. Essex County Cricket Club went on to win the tournament, beating Middlesex by 5 wickets mainly thanks to an unbeaten 77 by left hander Matt Walker.
Other than that, Dubai and Abi Dhabi have hosted the Emirates T20 trophy for several years, with English County teams finishing in in the top positions in their T20 league and Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) taking part initially.
The Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, which has over the years been home to Pakistan’s cricket, the IPL and PSL, County Championship curtain-raisers as well as ICC events, has the main ground as well as two support ovals, which creates the possibility of multiple games taking place within a few days, with the downside of the situation being fatigue for the Cricketers due to playing too many matches in a short span at an unfamiliar climate. It also features 25 lanes of nets and a number of other training resources.
The ground is broadcast-ready in terms of equipment and being effectively state-run, through a partnership with the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, would eliminate much red tape along the process. Yas Island – a 10-minute drive away – is the location of numerous hotels.
Although, there is also no guarantee players would be granted permission to travel to the Emirates by the UK government or whether broadcasters would be satisfied with what may amount to a glut of games after a long fallow period, but it would appear to be an option worth exploring for the ECB. And if it proves possible to stage some form of cricket – be it international, T20 Blast or County Championship – it might go some way towards satisfying broadcaster demands for content. If the ADC association achieve success in hosting the matches for England, then they can offer to do the same for other Cricket teams suffering from the cancellation of live cricket.