In the world of sport, Abu Dhabi holds a special place. The UAE capital has emerged as one of the most attractive sporting destinations on the planet as the world takes more steps to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.
The next few weeks will once again highlight the exalted status the emirate enjoys as the Indian Premier League concludes its 2021 edition, before making way for the T20 World Cup which starts just two days later on October 17.
Abu Dhabi Cricket will be busy throughout the winter with a succession of high-profile games. The main Zayed Cricket Stadium is one of the best facilities in the region, while the adjacent Tolerance Oval has also been upgraded to meet international requirements.
The upgraded oval has grass banks with a capacity to host around 12,000 people. The wicket block has space for five pitches in the centre, with an additional two either side for practice, along with high quality floodlights.
With so much on offer, India and Kolkata Knight Riders spinner Harbhajan Singh believes Abu Dhabi Cricket is capable of hosting a World Cup in the future.
“Sheikh Zayed Stadium has a big responsibility here now that they have the World Cup and I’m sure they’re going to do a fantastic job. They really look after their players and the guests and everyone so nicely,” Harbhajan told The National.
“I think maybe you could have a few more stadiums coming up in Abu Dhabi. They can have, next time, the World Cup in Abu Dhabi itself. It's a great thing having the World Cup here and it will inspire a lot of young people over here who want to take up the game.”
The veteran spinner was all praise for the Tolerance Oval which also offers world-class facilities.
“Infrastructure wise, I think they’ve done a great, great job creating this sort of facility. I’m just so happy to see the progress of cricket and also the other sports, how they are taking these things very seriously and infrastructure to the kids to come and play the sport.
“[The Tolerance Oval] It’s as good as any county [ground] when we play in England. It’s a full-size ground with proper dressing rooms and everything. Hats off to these guys, they've put in so much hard work to create such infrastructure where players can explore their talent.”
Harbhajan has witnessed the rise of Abu Dhabi Cricket first hand. He was part of the Indian team that played in the first-ever ODI to be played at the ground – against Pakistan in 2006.
“I played long back in the stadium against Pakistan,” Harbhajan reminisced. “That time the stadium was very new when we played the game there, and it was beautiful. Now we've come here after many, many years and it's good to see a lot of other sports played in the same facilities. A lot of kids play football, a lot of kids play tennis and there are three or four grounds for just cricket practice.”
And as the season continues to gather pace, Harbhajan has one request for the spectators: “All I want to say to the crowd, and to everyone, is make sure everyone still wears those masks and still follows those protocols to make sure they're not infected and not infecting others. It's a responsibility for each of us to make sure we keep everyone safe around us.”