Saudi Arabia is to hold its first ever regional tournament, taking the game across the vast kingdom. Six regional associations will field 104 teams for the Dil Se T20 Championship in what is being heralded by Saudi Cricket Centre (SCC) Chief Executive Officer Nadeem Nadwi as "the biggest event in the history of cricket in the Kingdom."

Nadeem Nadwi at the launch of the Dil Se T20 tournament, Jeddah March 2009

Over 1400 players will be taking part in the tournament, which will conclude in May, with the majority coming from Jeddah. The Dil Se T20 matches will be played on a league/knockout basis and will be played simultaneously on 24 grounds at Jeddah, Yanbu, Madina, Abha, Gizan, Riyadh and Dammam.

All the current national squad will be taking part in the tournament, spread over the regions. One of the half-dozen or so pre-tournament favourites are Al-Saudi in Western Province Cricket Association (WPCA – Jeddah) which has seven Saudi-born players in the team. Al-Saudi won the national Division 3 championships last season and are doing very well in Division 2 this season. All matches in Saudi Arabia are currently played on either cement or artificial turf wickets.

Regional associations representatives, Dil Se and SCC officials

The six regions will have their own winner with the regional victors then competing in the national Championships in Jeddah in September. Still a player himself, Mr. Nadwi says “I am making myself available for the cricket administration to make sure that the tournament is being organized in the best possible manner.”

Indeed, he has been quite busy off the field. An SCC Softball Cricket Tournament is being held in Yanbu, 235 miles north of Jeddah for 12 teams with the stipulation that all must be Saudi nationals (ie. not expatriates).

In order to attract as much local involvement as possible The SCC has also produced a special document and video in Arabic “to make the game attractive for the locals,” says Mr. Nadwi just minutes before he left the SCC to go and officially inaugurate the Dil Se event.

“They’ve started and they’ve started big,” says ACC Development Officer for Saudi Arabia Iqbal Sikander, “I look forward to seeing the matches when things start to get interesting at the knock-out stages.”

Related: Saudis Show Their Mettle
Saudi Arabia Profile

Filed March 18, 2009