The possibility of the UAE staging a World Cup in cricket for the first time has moved a step closer after the ICC confirmed they are moving ahead with planning for this year’s T20 event here.
A final decision on where the tournament will be played will be taken later this month.
However, the prospect of it being switched from India to the Emirates has grown stronger this week.
Senior officials from the Board of Control for Cricket in India have been in Dubai in recent days to finalise plans for the remainder of the suspended 2021 IPL season in the Emirates.
The decision was taken to relocate that competition given the effect of the coronavirus pandemic in India.
The IPL season will be played to its conclusion in a window just preceding the scheduled 20-over over World Cup.
Although a decision has yet to be taken, the game’s governing body are now pressing on with plans to stage that event in the UAE, too – as well as possibly one other venue in the region.
“The ICC Board has requested management focus its planning efforts for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 on the event being staged in the UAE with the possibility of including another venue in the Middle East,” the ICC said in a statement.
“A final decision on the host country will be taken later this month. The Board also confirmed that the BCCI will remain the hosts of the event regardless of where the event is played.”
Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah have an established pedigree for staging international cricket, and the Emirates have been on standby to stage the 2021 T20 World Cup for some while now.
The UAE’s reputation for delivering major matches in exacting conditions was further enhanced during last year’s IPL.
Mumbai Indians crowned IPL 2020 champions in Dubai
The 2020 IPL season was regarded as a huge success, having been played in biosecure conditions at three venues across the Emirates.
The potential “other venue in the Middle East” is intriguing. The Oman Cricket Academy ovals in Al Amerat, just outside Muscat, are ICC-accredited grounds that have hosted one-day international and T20I cricket in the past.
They are well-appointed ovals, with a glorious backdrop at the base of the Hajar Mountains. However, fan attendance could be an issue, with no permanent spectator facilities.
It is likely the ICC would want spectators present in the stands at the T20 World Cup.
Although fans will not be permitted to attend the PSL when it resumes in Abu Dhabi this month, sports events in this country are starting to welcome back supporters.
A limited crowd was permitted in to football's President's Cup final in Al Ain last month. The national football team will also hope to be well backed when supporters are admitted to their World Cup Qualifiers in Dubai this month.
Those fixtures will be open to 30 per cent capacity, to those fully vaccinated and bearing a negative Covid-19 test result within 48 hours of match day.
The news about potentially staging the T20 World Cup was the second major boost for UAE cricket on Tuesday, after it was confirmed both the 20- and 50-over World Cups are set for an expansion.
From 2024 to 2031, the 50-over tournament will be a 14-team, 54-match competition. The T20 event will expand to 20 teams and 55 matches.
The UAE, as well as all other nations from beyond the established Test elite, have been constrained by the fact the 50-over World Cup is currently a 10-team competition.
The newly-revised format will return to that of the 2003 tournament in South Africa.
That means having two groups of seven, with the top three in each group progressing to a Super Six stage, followed by semi-finals and final.
“Having the ICC event schedule confirmed through to 2031 is a significant step forward for cricket and will form the basis of our growth strategy for the next decade,” Geoff Allardice, the ICC’s acting chief executive, said.
“The revised approach to selecting hosts for our events will give us much more flexibility to grow the game and engage new fans.”