Frank Kane’s notebook: mention of Kevin Pietersen creates sticky wicket at DIFC

A Q&A concerning English cricket players caused a few ructions in Dubai.

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Cricket isn’t my game, I waste far too much time on football.

But with hindsight I should have accepted an invitation from FTI Consulting, the PR firm (sorry, global communications consultancy) to attend a cricket-themed dinner at the DIFC Ritz-Carlton in Dubai last week.

What was billed as a gentlemanly evening of discussion about the game turned into an international media storm concerning one of its more colourful characters, the former England player Kevin Pietersen, fired by the team after a disastrous tour of Australia recently, and the team’s current wicketkeeper, Matt Prior.

John Hobday, the managing director of FTI in the region, was the master of ceremonies at the event, which I’m told was well attended by about 100 people, including several journalists.

There was a Q&A session, with Prior open to questions from the floor. “He was generally extremely complimentary about Pietersen, saying the row about his sacking was now over and it was time for English cricket to move on. All quite genuine stuff,” says Mr Hobday.

But then came came the crunch question: “Is the English dressing room a better place without Pietersen?” Prior was asked. “Yes,” was the first word of the response.

A wire journalist in the room tweeted it, and in no time it was all over the sports pages of the British media. Piers Morgan, the TV presenter himself recently dropped from his American talk show and a notable friend of Pietersen, got in on the act with some pointed tweets.

Even the Australian press, keen to rub salt into the wounds, joined in, depicting a vicious verbal duel between the two ‘poms’ (who, it should be said, are probably the best of friends).

Mr Hobday was surprised at the furore, but quietly pleased about the publicity he (and his firm) got. “I always wanted to have a massive impact on English cricket. I just wanted it to be with a bat and ball, rather than by hosting a Q&A,” he says.

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I made my first proper trip down to Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi earlier this week. I was on the island once before, when it was a building site, and watched the skyline grow on journeys along Sheikh Khalifa Highway.

But I wasn’t really prepared for the sheer scale of the project, and when I saw it up close I was gobsmacked by the size and ambition. It really is a stunning development, with enough vacant space to attract a sizeable army of investment bankers, financiers, asset managers and lawyers when the Abu Dhabi Global Market is up and running, some time in the next year or so.

The financial classes need first-class office space and good off-duty facilities. The Galleria in Sowwah Square, at Al Maryah’s centre, will provide some of the latter, with an array of the usual glittering retail outlets already opened there. Two five-star hotels, the Rosewood and the Four Seasons, will help supply some of what the “masters of the universe” regard as the basic necessities.

Judging by the experience of Dubai’s DIFC, the other essential ingredient for a financial free zone is a branch of Zuma, the classy sushi-fusion restaurant.

This week, the bankers got just that when Zuma opened in Sowwah under the sway of the restaurant’s Middle East managing director, Ajaz Sheikh.

Mr Sheikh says he has been looking for a venue for an AD branch of Zuma for the past couple of years, and Sowwah Square fits the bill perfectly.

“You know you have a target audience, you can’t really go wrong,” Mr Sheikh told Caterer MiddleEast.

fkane@thenational.ae

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