DUBAI // Rod Marsh saw everything worth seeing on his travels around the world as an all-conquering Australian but the wily old wicket-keeper confesses to being blown away by the brilliance of the new stadium he is about to start working in at Dubai Sports City (DSC).
Marsh, 61, is director of cricket at the enormous new complex, and is convinced his job is going to be made easier by what he expects to be an upsurge of interest in the game in the UAE following the official opening of of the new arena on Wednesday. "For the first time in several years I got goose bumps," said Marsh about experiencing the "wall of fire" that the ultra-modern floodlights create at the ground.
"I have not been a great watcher of cricket since I retired but I can't wait to watch the first competitive match in Dubai." That will be when the Australians, who have followed Marsh to the Middle East, take on 'hosts' Pakistan in the first of a series of five one-day internationals next week. "It is ironic that I am here in my coaching role and Australia will be first users of the stadium along with Pakistan," said Marsh.
"When other nations see what it is like here, I hope they will want to play too. It would be brilliant if one day Australia and England could meet head on in Dubai. "I don't now how it could work but perhaps the ICC [the International Cricket Council] could have a Champions Trophy or even a World Cup here one day." Marsh called it "a dream come true" to witness the gradual development of the new stadium to the point where it is now ready for use.
"When I came here in 2005 this site was a camel farm," he reflected. "The first thing we saw to rise from the soil was the stadium. To think that is is going to have international exposure on April 22 gives you a warm feeling that the dream is starting to come true. And this is only the first part of that dream. "If I was still an international player I would be dying to play in that stadium. It is one of the most exciting grounds I have ever set foot in. The boundaries are short enough to take on but long enough to hole out."
Marsh is particularly impressed with the DSC floodlights which circle the playing arena. "The lighting out there doesn't cast any shadows," he said. "I went all round the ground and got people to hit balls to all corners and got a good view of each shot. "If anybody drops a catch in the outfield there it won't be the fault of the lights, it will be the fault of the catcher. You don't lose the ball in these lights."
Marsh was non-commital about the outcome of the five match series - the first two at DSC and the ensuing three at Abu Dhabi Cricket Stadium - because of his country's recent failure against South Africa and the fact that Pakistan will have an influence on the playing conditions as the 'home' team. Marsh remarked: "The pitch for the practice matches had some grass. "I think the Pakistanis, as the home team, will request that the grass is removed and that's fine. I just hope they don't take all the grass off it and leave nothing in it for the bowlers.
"Whatever the conditions, I'm sure that it will be a fantastic series. I just wish I was playing in it." email@example.com