It seems even the pandemic cannot prevent another edition of the Indian Premier League from rolling forth. With the Emirates Cricket Board confirming the Indian counterpart’s intent and interest in shifting the premier domestic tournament to the UAE, it would be only a matter of clearing the ministerial and bureaucratic formalities before the world’s best cricketers descend in the country for the 13th edition of the league, tentatively scheduled from mid-September to early November. Though there could be logistical hurdles, the league won’t be trimmed or crunched, it will run the full course. The authorities might allow spectators as well. The UAE could be an oasis for cricket enthusiasts, like it has been for Pakistan cricket since the Lahore shootings in 2009.
Cricket in the Gulf would surely whip up nostalgia and romance for cricket watchers of a certain vintage, those who have grown up watching the game in the ’80s and ’90s, when the annual summer fixtures in Sharjah had the fervour of a World Cup. Some of the most remarkable (and heartbreaking) moments were etched in Sharjah. The Sachin Tendulkar knocks, Miandad six, Javed hat-trick or those Friday finals — memories that define personalities, rivalries, teenage and early adulthood.
But the times have changed and it may well be that the romance of Sharjah cricket would never be recreated. Yet the reacquaintance of Indian cricket with the UAE could be significant on several grounds. First, it would assure fans that this year’s IPL would not be suspended, saving the board, franchises and players several millions. Second, the UAE could always be a buffer venue in the future in times of crisis. Third, it could pave the way for India-Pakistan encounters if the political weather clears between the two countries.