When Indian Premier League (IPL) authorities decided to hold the initial 20 matches of the lucrative Twenty20 league’s seventh edition in United Arab Emirates (UAE) due to ongoing general elections in India, never would they have thought that the tournament would be such a huge success, attracting a lot of crowd to the stadiums in Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. For last 20 days, the tournament had brought the Emirates to something of a standstill.
Board of Cricket Control for India (BCCI) interim president Sunil Gavaskar said, “We have been absolutely blown away by the crowds, even for the 2:30 pm games, we initially thought 6:30 pm games wouldn’t be in issue but 19 out of 20 games were sell outs, that’s the sign of how the IPL has caught the imagination of the people here. Games were sold out even on days other than Fridays, which is a holiday in UAE.
Queuing up on hot sunny afternoons, people came in large numbers, which has not been seen in UAE in recent years. Though cricket has been active in the region with Pakistan playing most of their ‘home’ matches in UAE due to security fears in Pakistan, these stadiums were not able to pull the massive crowds.
When England played Pakistan in UAE in 2012, before the sparse crowd, attendance was free, but still the tournament could not draw much of the spectators. For years India and UAE had shared a strong relationship, with many Indians living the country. In fact, until around 1967 Indian currency was used in UAE.
The major chunk of expatriates is from Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai, so when their teams played the games, they almost felt like playing in front of the home crowd. And it was just not the Indians in UAE who saw their players performing but also expatriates from other cricketing nations like Sri Lanka, Australia and West Indies. Glenn Maxwell set the stage on fire with his magnificent batting.
One of the placards in the crowds read, Boom Boom Maxwell.
This makes you think that the crowd has moved beyond Pakistan’s cricketer Shahid Afridi’s big hitting. There were some high scoring games, some low scoring games, some excellent catches and a lot of dropped catches, and so it was a mixed bag of entertainment for the cricket lovers. On 7 occasions a score of above 180 was achieved and twice it was above the mark of 200. There were matches in which teams were all out for as low as for 70 and 84.
More than 100 sixes have been hit in the tournament. Chris Lynn of Kolkata Knight Riders certainly inscribed his name in the sands of the UAE, taking a spectacular catch just near the boundary rope to dismiss AB Devilliers. It was a catch which will live on in memory for it was certainly one of the greatest catches of all time.
The BCCI interim president and many other former Indian cricketers have been going gaga over the success of the tournament in UAE.
Even the players have been smitten by the world-class facilities provided to them.
Some media in the UAE have started reporting the prospect of the Indian cricket team coming back to UAE in near future to resume playing One Day International cricket in UAE after almost a decade ago.
So the tournament now heads back to its original destination - India - with unforgettable memories for the UAE fan to cherish.