Few other sports reserve quite so much scrutiny for their playing surfaces as cricket.
Given the volume of traffic currently passing over their squares, groundsmen at the three major stadiums in the UAE know they are under the scanner.
After the run-spree that concluded Abu Dhabi’s involvement in this season’s Indian Premier League, the Zayed Cricket Stadium might have a fair claim to be regarded as the best batting wicket in the country.
Mumbai Indians and Sunrisers Hyderabad shared 428 runs in 40 overs in the last of the eight 2021 IPL matches playe
d at the main stadium in the capital.
And yet anecdotal evidence suggests the Zayed Cricket Stadium wicket might not even be the best on its own site.
That is the oval adjacent to the northern end of the main stadium, which has been renovated with a view to hosting major international cricket in future.
Officially, the Tolerance Oval has already staged nine T20 internationals, including UAE hosting Australia in 2018.
In fact, those matches were played on the other of the two nursery ovals, which neighbour the Zayed Cricket Stadium.
This summer the decision was taken to develop Abu Dhabi Cricket's third oval – the only one which has yet to stage official international cricket.
It is set to have a capacity for 12,000 spectators on grass banks surrounding the field, with nine strips on the wicket block, seven of which will be suitable for TV coverage.
Last week, Kolkata’s players were the first to practice under the new floodlights, which have suitable intensity to allow HD TV broadcasts.
Although the matches will be played without crowds, as per the T20 World Cup organisers’ directives, the new Tolerance Oval will host a number of the sport’s leading teams next week.
On Monday October 18, Afghanistan will face South Africa before New Zealand play Australia. Two days later, England will play New Zealand, to be followed by Pakistan against South Africa.
All those matches will take place while first round matches are taking place inside the main stadium.
Matt Boucher, Abu Dhabi Cricket’s chief executive, says Tolerance Oval is a “new gem” which will help drive the sport in the capital.
“The ground has enabled us to diversify our offering to global stakeholders - such as the IPL, ICC and BCCI - while ensuring the main stadium deserves the care and attention she needs in advance of the main tournament Round 1 and Super 12 match rotation,” Boucher said.
“The next stage will see us finalise the ICC night accreditation for one-day international and T20 international matches with the Emirates Cricket Board, before the ground officially becomes a new cricketing destination for the world. We’re absolutely thrilled with the final product.”