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Let's bring back the desert storms

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Quite interestingly, one of the first things that caught my eye as I stepped out of the immigration checks and into the gulf Kingdom of Bahrain was a prominent hoarding of, of all possible sportsmen from around the world, Ricky Ponting; endorsing an expensive watch brand.

 
The first magazine that I picked up in the non-cricket playing, neutral country had a small inset leading on to an article about the History of the Ashes. Admittedly, it wasn’t a fantastically well written piece, and it was more reworded research than knowledge, but there it was. And now, the more than decent reception that the current Lanka- Pakistan series in Abu Dhabi received shows that the Gulf has a lot of latent interest in Cricket, interest waiting to be tapped.

 
Of course, Cricket isn’t the most popular sport here, possibly not very close either. For every 10 groups of kids playing football in empty playgrounds there you will possibly find one group – usually expats from the sub-continent - playing Cricket. There is little doubt about the fact that Football is the number one sport in the world – or number two, possibly second to sex, (or then again, maybe not, Brazilian men chose to abstain for a whole month when the World Cup was on in Germany. But then that’s Brazil, boys there turn football pros before they lose their virginity. Or more likely, they lose their virginity because they turn pro). But well, if you can’t beat Australia, it is still something if you can be second to them.

 
The CBFS series spearhead by Asif Iqbal added a useful dimension to the game. Dramatic evenings under lights involving the best from the cricketing world (and not just India and Pakistan) squaring off in front of packed, full houses - or at least ones where you could see more people than chairs – and most importantly, in a neutral venue.

 
But apart from the fact it gave us a fair amount of exciting cricket, what it also did was keep live cricket alive in the Gulf, and bring the hidden, latent interest in the game to the forefront. Interest in any activity can be sustained or grown over a period of time only if the audience has first hand access to the highest level of action in that particular activity.
  The Sri-Lanka – Pakistan series in Abu Dhabi seems to have gone some way in doing what its predecessor in Sharjah did. Friends and acquaintances tell me that the series has received a fair amount of media coverage, has seen good attendance and basically caught people’s attention.

 
Cricket is now at a stage in its evolution where it is beginning to grow truly global, with cricket being played at various levels across all continents, but with a fair share of problems that need to be sorted out before it’s too late.

 
It's the sort of spring board from where it can either complete a fantastic leap and through various forms of the game – Tests, ODI’s, Twenty20 – grow bigger and better than it ever was, but at the same time it stands a chance of not grabbing the opportunities at hand and slipping down a few steps.

 

 At such times, reviving the game and developing it in countries and regions which have a history of Cricket behind it will be a huge plus. The Gulf is a useful market with interest, disposable income and some global aspiration value. Let’s hope international cricket returns in full swing, and we see some more fantastic Arabian nights .



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