ACC Development Officer Iqbal Sikander was in Saudi Arabia at the end of April on an intensive program which saw him take in an U-16 school tournament in Jeddah, train the national team for the forthcoming ACC Elite League, attend the Final of the National MoneyGram T20 Championship and have a “very useful and constructive discussion with SCC officials regarding the development of cricket and infrastructure in the Kingdom.”

The time Iqbal spent at the REDTAG U-16 Inter-School Cricket Tournament, an event organised by the Western Provinces Cricket Association under the supervision of the Saudi Cricket Centre was particularly pleasing. “The essence of cricket lies in the grassroots level where talented players can be identified and then groomed under qualified coaches,” says Iqbal. The tournament has eight schools taking part in the round-robin event over six weeks. Iqbal witnessed four of the tournament’s games running simultaneously across four grounds in one facility at Jeddah.

The Jeddah evenings had Iqbal working with the 30 players shortlisted by the Saudi Cricket Centre selectors from all over the country at a camp for the ACC Elite League event in June. “The main focus was the players’ fitness,” says Iqbal, who motivated them “to ensure that they increase their fitness levels to be able to compete in ACC tournaments where there are back to back matches at times and that is where, this very talented team falls back and is not able to perform to its true potential.”

The second year of the MoneyGram T20 Championship has been even bigger than the first, with 11 Associations across 16 divisions over 64 grounds in10 cities, fielding 278 teams (2013’s had 136). Close to 4500 players took part in the 837 matches and 190 umpires (many of them trained by ACC Resource Person Mahboob Shah), scorers and match referees officiated. Generating reams of local news coverage the total prize money for the event was US$52,000. Chief guest at the Final in Yanbu, following in Wasim Akram’s footsteps from last year, was Umar Akmal. Pak Shaheen beat Al Tuwairqi to lift the trophy.

Following the summer break, the Saudi Cricket Centre will start scouting for new talent and start developing cricket in two fresh regions – Qassim to the east of Jeddah and Jizan (Jazan), near the border with Yemen.

Saudi Arabia Cricket Profile
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Filed May 14th, 2014