UAE Nationals, Winners of Gulf Cup II

UAE Nationals wrested the second Gulf Cup from Oman Nationals in a thrilling T20 encounter played under lights at Sharjah Cricket Stadium. They won in the second super over after the UAE had their scores matched twice by Oman, first after making 138 and then after making 19 in the first super over, the second super over finally proving decisive as Oman could only make 7 in reply to UAE’s 15. Defending champions Oman had earlier recovered from 58 for 7 and scored 40 off their last three overs to tie the match.

What makes the event doubly significant is that it is a cricket tournament open only to cricketers who are either Gulf country passport holders or born in the Gulf, ie ‘nationals’. Four countries took part - Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and UAE - in the two-day event. A number of those taking part for UAE have represented the country in ACC and UAE tournaments. Organizers would be the first to say that the standard of the Nationals sides do not match those of their established international counterparts, nevertheless the aim of tournaments like these is to provide the nationals a platform for competition and preparing a pool of players for future tournaments. “Creating a strong pool of junior players is paramount to producing future generation of champions,” says Emirates Cricket Board Administrator Mazhar Khan.

Former UAE U-19 captain and now UAE Nationals captain Alawi Shukri accepts the Gulf Cup from Oman Cricket Chairman Kanak Khimji as Emirates Cricket Board Administrator Mazhar Khan and Sharjah Cricket Council Vice-Charirman Waleed Bukhatir look on

Asian Games rules stipulate that only passport holders can take part in them, so should the Gulf countries ever wish to take part in the cricket event, they will need to field a team made up exclusively from full Nationals. In direct contrast to the current international representative sides from the Middle East, which are made up of cricketers who, even through they are born in the countries they play for, are not awarded passports of those countries by the authorities.

In order to expand the reach of cricket in the Middle East in particular, the ACC has stipulated that in all junior tournaments there must be at least three passport-holders in each playing XI. That directive led to the UAE and Qatar being unable to field a team in last year’s ACC U-16 Elite event. For all the passion with which cricket is played and followed in the Middle East, it is marginalized purely because there are hardly any Arabs playing the game. Bringing cricket into the mainstream starts by bringing players from the mainstream into cricket. Initiatives such as the Gulf Cup, in its nascent stage at present, are to be encouraged.

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Filed March 9th, 2011