January 21, 2012

England in UAE 2011-12

The upside of a three-day finish

Richard Kemp
Simultaneous cricket matches being played in Palm Diera in Dubai
Cricket matches being played out in Palm Diera  © Richard Kemp
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If I am honest with myself I secretly hoped the Dubai Test would be wrapped up inside four days. With just a day's build-up in Dubai before the Test started and a short taxi ride booked down to Abu Dhabi the day after what was scheduled to be day five, I considered the chance to have time to explore the sprawling metropolis a bonus.

However, what I did not wish for was the toothless, formless batting display from England on the third day that reminded me of being at Sabina Park, Jamaica, back in 2009.

We will always support the England team wherever we go, but sometimes watching batsmen after batsmen gift their wicket to the opposition is pretty hard to stomach. I had thought England would repeat their efforts in Brisbane, where they trailed heavily after the first innings and batted properly second time around. KP's dismissal, caught on the boundary for 0, summed up a pretty grim few days inside the Dubai Sports City Stadium.

But to me more worrying than the form of England's top six, was the lack of supporters for Pakistan inside the ground. Without the thousand or so English out here in the desert, the ground would have been empty throughout most of the Test.

Having the time to explore, we took a metro on Friday all the way to the north of Dubai, to a place by the coast called Palm Diera. Here, we found all the Pakistani cricket fans that the PCB hoped would fill the stadiums in the UAE. It was a sight I imagine repeated across cities like Multan or Faisalabad - a barren patch of land where over half a dozen games of cricket were being played out simultaneously with some intensity.

I walked over to the game being played out nearest to us. There was an umpire, a scorer (naturally sat in the comfort of a wheelbarrow) a set of stumps made out of bricks and a boundary marked out by a line drawn in the sand. This was a different side to Dubai than you see on the television; migrant workers from the local fish markets were taking time out between shifts to play cricket.

I spoke to a young guy who had sledged us on arrival with catcalls of "Saeed Ajmal, doosra, doosra!"about why he wasn't in the ground supporting his heroes. In broken English he explained that he and his friends were too busy working and sending money home to their families in Pakistan and couldn't justify a day's lost wages to watch the cricket.

And I guess therein lies the problem. The interest in Test cricket is definitely there - they admitted to watching every highlights programme they could. They knew how many runs Misbah-ul-Haq had made recently and that Umar Gul looks fitter now than ever. They knew Kevin Pietersen shouldn't have hit that careless shot so early on in his innings and that Ian Bell was struggling to pick Ajmal's doosra. Unlike the English fans who are here in the UAE on holiday, these fans are here working.

Since the weekend days here are Friday and Saturday, perhaps the authorities could look at scheduling the games to start around these days as opposed toTuesday? After all, if England bat as naively in Abu Dhabi as they did here, even a Wednesday start might not give adequate time for the expat workers to make the most of the time off they have.

My prediction prior to the series was that England would struggle to get going during this Test series. I also envisaged that we'd win in Abu Dhabi. I may have already got the scoreline incorrect, but if the rest follows suit, at least we will avoid a series defeat.

Richard Kemp is in the UAE on his ninth cricket tour with the England side. Since his first tour in 2004, his love for the game has made him max out several credit cards visiting five Test-playing nations, including three tours of India and all five of last winter's Ashes Test matches. He keeps a travel blog of his journeys here

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Posted by Aina on (January 23, 2012, 22:27 GMT)

@Richard Pope: So you think it's an excuse? I agree Pakistanis don't watch as many test matches in the stadium as Englishmen do. Most of them probably get to watch one in a lifetime which may be why they prefer ODIs, but that's me, because I still haven't fulfilled my dream of attending one, and now it seems unlikely unless Imran Khan comes into power. Anyway, we Pakistanis watch the Ashes, often live, despite the timezones, and follow them avidly. Needless to say we stay up nights for Pakistan's tours to Australia, which is an achievement since we keep losing. As for the current series, we have been waiting for it desperately since it was announced, and I have watched the highlights of our victory at-least half a dozen times, not to mention following it online. Best not to generalize; at any rate, most Pakistanis wouldn't be over the moon if they didn't care about test cricket, aka REAL CRICKET!

Posted by Rakesh on (January 23, 2012, 8:29 GMT)

I guess even the Pakistani fans wanted the game to go into the 5th day so they could come and watch on a Friday.

Too bad, it didn't :-)

Posted by Rahul on (January 23, 2012, 7:30 GMT)

Small correction: The picture taken by the author is taken at Deira area and not Palm Deira. Besides I would request Richard to visit the grounds situated at the outskirts of Dubai and Sharjah perticulorly in the Umm al Quin area on the weekends. He can uncover a wonderful story for his diary where a very competitive cricket is played between the clubs made up of expats from India, Pakistan, Srilanka and Bangladesh. Also Kerala Premier League (KPL) is being played currently on ICC Global Academy on weekends where UAE's top most cricket talent and few exports from ├Źndia and Pakistan are on display. It is not to be missed if you are exploring UAE cricket. You will be amazed at what you will explore. ( I ll be glad to assist you on a tour)..!

Posted by DadaCricket on (January 22, 2012, 18:40 GMT)

And for the quality of play seen, Pakistan needs to be praised for their performance more thn england to be cursed for theirs because it was Pakistan who had put into pressure even before the series had started by creating the hype for TEESRA which may or may not have actually exist!

Posted by DadaCricket on (January 22, 2012, 18:37 GMT)

I believe the comment above should be taken positively! When a uk expat looks at 30dhs its only 5gbp but for a pk expat labour working there it is 600pkr and probably the cash he has for a day's food in return of which he will only get one day's play and no result in one day atleast! They will definitely come to shortened formats, give it a festive alike atmosphere and enjoy that to the fullest and go home knowing the result and being able to tell people that BOOM BOOM had hit a six right over their heads! And the professionals working in dxb in different fields may just be as busy as any one else and may just not want to take a day off since new year celebrations recently ended in dxb and people are now busy opening up files and documents they had pushed into the drawers in december! its all justified i reckon!

Posted by zain on (January 22, 2012, 14:39 GMT)

Good article! Being a Pakistani, i agree that more Paki supporters will come if matches are on Weekend. Even more so will arrive if its a one dayer (especialy if there is Afridi to watch) @Richard Pope...... people from the subcontinent definitely have interest in test matches. How the hell told you that we didn't. Stop Stereotyping mate!

Posted by shahzebabbasi on (January 22, 2012, 10:58 GMT)

what a poor thought by my weeping friend "richard hope" and certainly a diverting article by "kemp" ... how long will it take the english nation to accept their defeat?the main conclusion is that england have beaten hard by pakistan and no need to display divergency .... ICC is responsible for marketing our objective is to support our teams whether they are playing in an island or vaccum. PAKISTAN ZINDABAD

Posted by Cricket Fanatic on (January 21, 2012, 16:30 GMT)

Such an emotional article, poor young souls of Dubai, I feel like crying......*sob*

Posted by Richard Pope on (January 21, 2012, 15:49 GMT)

Why there were few uk expat supporters is a shame as most i knew planned to go on fri and sat i.e. the weekend inc mostof my club, darjeeling cc. i dont accept the consistent excuse that the pk expats dont have time to play or watch which i always hear and 30dhs (5gbp) is not much by anyones standard. the tickets were priced low on purpose and everyone knew about it. you saw them playing....a last point - the ICC is a members organisation and most money comes from india and there is also minimal appetite for test cricket. why lorgat wont admit this is a danger for test cricket but market forces show that the 'sub-continentals' are not interested and they have the choice....so that is the future as it stands!

Posted by Richard Pope on (January 21, 2012, 15:36 GMT)

glad you got to see a bit of dubai and youre right there are big patches of ground where loads of games like that are played. ironically i moved to islamabad this week so have missed being able to go see the games. there has been no marketing targeted at me, a uk expat there, or my other western friends. i dont know about the pk expats there but there seemed to be nothing for these games which has been noted and is a shame. apparently as its a pk home fixture its their responsibility and there is a huge pk population in dubai and youre right again, mostly labourers but not exclusively by any means. there are many successful pk professional class and businessmen resident. i went to the first pk v aus games in dubai and abu dhabi and the dubai one was mostly full but abu dhabi less so even tho it was in the evening. they were one day games and if you know anything about the sub-continents attitude to cricket there is no appetite for test cricket at all. i expect the short form to be full

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