Abu Dhabi Cricket 'willing to host' English domestic matches to ease fixture congestion

The capital has been mooted as a potential answer to the scheduling congestion for competitive cricket in the UK this summer caused by coronavirus shutdown

Abu Dhabi Cricket would be willing to stage English domestic matches later this year, if it helps ease the log-jam of fixtures caused by coronavirus.

The capital has been mooted as a potential answer to the scheduling congestion for competitive cricket in the UK this summer.

The English season is suspended until at least July, as part of the battle against the spread of Covid-19.

A variety of solutions have been floated to cope with the logistical issues when the sport does return.

That has included seeing England play Test and one-day international matches on the same day, as well as hosting matches without spectators, at bio-secure venues where players and officials stay at on-site hotels.

Now the idea has been raised of extending the domestic season past its scheduled end in September, and playing matches in October and November in the UAE.

Matt Boucher, the chief executive of Abu Dhabi Cricket, said the proposal is unlikely to be discussed until there is a clearer idea of how restrictions relating to the health situation are going to be eased.

“As per business as usual, we are always looking at international event opportunities, which is in line with the Abu Dhabi Sports Council vision and mandate,” Boucher said.

“However, we do not know what measures will be in place by that time of this year.

“We have the facilities, and we would be willing to host, with bio-secure regulations in place.”

Abu Dhabi Cricket have been in talks with a number of leading national boards in recent times, with a view to establishing long-term relationships and becoming an overseas training base.

The city is no stranger to county cricket. Between 2010 and 2017, the Zayed Cricket Stadium played host to the season-opening fixture between MCC and the champion county side.

After a year in Barbados, that match returned to these shores, and was played in Dubai in 2019.

In the past, informal discussions have also taken place about staging early-season matches in the English County Championship in the UAE.

Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah have all been destinations for pre-season tours by county sides on regular occasions in the past.

The impressive infrastructure for the game in this country means it could figure in contingency planning for several competitions once is it deemed safe to play cricket again.

When that will be remains unclear, and the game is at a standstill all over the world at present.

The ICC’s medical head Dr Peter Harcourt this week said the situation is “full of significant risk” and that they are considering “everything from player preparation to government restrictions and advisories and bio-bubbles.”

If the Asia Cup goes ahead as planned in September, it is likely to be played in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Abu Dhabi Cricket is well placed to cope with a high volume of cricket, if both Asia Cup and county fixtures are scheduled for there.

There are two international-standard grounds – Zayed Cricket Stadium and the Tolerance Oval – as well as a third oval deemed worthy for first-class cricket.

There is also facility for a new, fourth ground. Clay was laid for a cricket wicket last year between two football pitches, with scope to extend the outfield to a size suitable for professional cricket.

“There is no question Abu Dhabi has the assets available to satisfy the hardest of multi-team tournament schedules,” Boucher said.

“We have the majestic Zayed Cricket Stadium, three full-sized support ovals, 25 dedicated nets, on-site strength and conditioning, six hotels within 10 minutes’ drive, and an airport in close proximity.”