CRICKET BONANZA IN SAUDI ARABIA
Saudis keen to watch Afridi in action
By AMANULLAH BASHAR
July 04 - 10, 2005
Count down has begun in Saudi Arabia to enjoy the golden moments of the flamboyant Shahid Afridi who is well prepared to demonstrate his fire power during the first-ever international cricket tournament, Saudi Gold Cup-2005, to be played in Riyadh and Jeddah on July 15, 21 and 22.
Saudi Gold Cup 2005 is a series of three day-and-night one-dayers to be played between Pakistan and Lashings (UK) in Riyadh on July 15 and in Jeddah on July 21 and 22. The first match will be played at King Fahd Stadium in the capital and the remaining two matches at the Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Stadium.
Originally, it was a three match series between Pakistan XI and India XI, however, the organizers had to change the plan and re-reschedule the matches following refusal by the Indian cricket board to participate in the tournament.
Special arrangements are being made to stage the first-ever international cricket tournament in Saudi Arabia to make it a memorable event in the history of sports.
The exciting beauty of the architecture of the King Fahd Stadium would make it a spectacular event for the cricket fans.
In conformity with the international standards, a readymade pitch is being brought to Riyadh on July 8 and would be laid at the stadium a couple of days before the match. Special grassy tiles are also being brought in to be laid on the stadium ground.
Authorized ICC representative will inspect the ground arrangements before the curtain is raised for the international cricket event. The International Cricket Council (ICC) has already given approval to the upcoming tournament being organized by the Al-Jawad Trading Group, informed sources told PAGE.
Actually, the credit for organizing an international cricket event goes to Al-Jawad Trading Group having a business knack to correctly assess the enormous business potential of the sports world so far lying untapped in the oil rich kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Hopefully, the success of the forthcoming cricket gala in Saudi Arabia would open doors for cricket tournaments in future as well as regular feature like Sharjah. So far local people as well as migrants especially from India and Pakistan had to go to Sharjah to see their favourite cricket stars in action. Abdurrehman Bukhatar was the mastermind, who in association with Pakistan's Asif Iqbal created a New World in the deserts of Sharjah, which later became the focal point of the international cricket events. Sharjah cricket attraction, which not only became a crowd puller from all over the world but it really helped booming Dubai turn into a world class shopping mall.
Coming back to Saudi Gold Cup, Pakistan team, led by Inzamam ul Haq, will include Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Akhtar, Younis Khan, Yousuf Youhana, Abdul Razzaq, Yasir Hameed, Shabbir Ahmed, Shoaib Malik, Imran Nazir, Arshad Khan, Asim Kamal and Kamran Akmal.
While Lashings World XI squad being led by Richardson will comprise Chris Cairns, Chris Harris, Daniel Vettori, Hamish Marshall and Jacob Oram from New Zealand, and Andre Nel, Herschelle Gibbs, Jacques Rudolph, Lance Klusener, Mark Boucher, Neil McKenzie and Nicky Boje from South Africa. Javagal Srinath of India and Australia's Andy Bichel are also included.
The first international event in Saudi Arabia has generated a lot of interest among the cricket fans in Saudi Arabia, adjoining Arab states, India and Pakistan to an extent that most of the tickets for the Riyadh and Jeddah matches have already been sold out. Organizers have divided the stadium into three galleries for the spectators indicated by the ticket price at SR50, SR100 and SR300 for Riadh and SR100, SR300 and SR500 for Jeddah.
Interestingly, despite refusal by the Indian cricket board to participate in Saudi Gold Cup 2005 tournament, a major portion of the gate money is reportedly flowing from India. It is the charisma of the cricket heroes, which is irresistible for the cricket fans who are keen to have glimpse of their heroes.
It may be mentioned here that during the recently concluded cricket series between India and Pakistan, the strong man Shahid Afridi was the most sought after cricketer especially among the Bollywood beauties obviously owing to his powerful shots volleying the ball outside the stadium more often than not.
Preity Zinta, a leading star of Indian movies had paid her compliments to Afridi: "For me the hottest cricketer is the one who plays well on that particular day. And the hottest Pakistani cricketer for me is the one who makes the least runs when playing against India".
Pakistan is a producer of world class players in different games like cricket, hockey, squash, snooker and yachting etc, who ruled the world in their respective fields. Pakistan is also a world class producer of sports goods with an exports of around $300 million which have found their way into international tournaments. Pakistan earned over $160 million by exporting footballs during 2004-05. It is however painful that despite producing quality sports goods and players, it could not exploit the real potential in organizing international sports events in the country for want of peace, harmony and a stable law and order situation!.