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Page 2

The time for the UAE is here. Again

You establishment people tried to keep them out of serious cricket, but you couldn't, could you?

Sidin Vadukut
Sheikh Zayed Stadium: never deserted, geddit?  •  Getty Images

Sheikh Zayed Stadium: never deserted, geddit?  •  Getty Images

Rarely have I written a column for this website with such a tidal wave of emotion coursing through my body. It is so intense that I can hardly type. I will use speech-to-text technology for the rest of the piece.
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What nonsense is this, Apple computers? Please ignore that, readers. Wonderful filament satisfaction, it seems. Pfft.
What I really meant to say was that recent developments in the cricket of the United Arab Emirates have tremendously moved me. After years in the wilderness of world cricket, the UAE has once again claimed its rightful position as an emerging superpower. Surely this calls for a joyous celebration and merriment?
For fans of both the UAE and cricket, the ICC's decision to give the country official ODI status till 2018 is, above all, a long overdue moment of vindication. It is not unlike that moment in Jurassic Park when that small dinosaur appears on screen and the public is all: "So cute! Now buzz off and play with Namibia and Papua New Guinea or something…", and then bam, the little dinosaur has qualified for two World Cups and the public screams "!!!" because the public is speechless with awe and dinosaur murder.
I say long overdue because ever since UAE's valiant if fruitless appearance in the 1996 World Cup, it has been treated to the most shameful, condescending, step-motherly treatment by the world of establishment cricket. As if India did so well in its first World Cup. (Played three, lost two, won just one, against East Africa, a duplicate country. Unlike Netherlands, who we defeated in 1996.)
This despite the country's eagerness to do whatever it can to help the cause of this great sport. The ICC wants a new head office? Welcome to Dubai! Want a neutral venue for your cricket? Abu Dhabi is at your beck and call! In a hurry to find an alternate IPL location? Sharjah is always ready and willing. Want a sponsor for your stupid tournament? Emirates airlines or Etisalat will be glad to be of assistance.
Hi, can we play in your T20 tournament? No, we are not good enough, is it? Fine. No problem. No, no, it is okay. Of course not, we are sure you have a reason for picking Afghanistan. No, we don't feel bad. No, really. We are quiet because we have nothing to say. Crying? What nonsense. Our eyes are moist because of dust in our contact lens.
Please. Stop. Don't act as if you don't know. Screw you, ICC. Screw you and your worship at the altar of money! We in the UAE are not like you! We answer to a higher and nobler call!
What did the UAE then do? They waited and prepared and trained and then answered with the thundering thump of willow, laser lightning of leather and fulsome friction of fielding.
Of course, you establishment stooges are still sceptical. What legitimacy does UAE cricket have, you ask. How dare it aspire to cricking greatness, you wonder. Of course you would with your Wisden Almanack snobbery and Long Room bluster.
In the name of Sheikh Zayed, let me count the ways. First of all, UAE have been playing cricket since the 1940s. This is several decades before Bangladesh established a cricketing board or, in fact, itself. Secondly the UAE has numerous stadiums of an iconic status and world-class standard. Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi, for instance, has a 4.3 out of 5 rating on Google from nine reviews, including one three-star rating by one Arun Kumar S, who is most probably a Dubai fellow playing petty local politics. Please note: Edgbaston Cricket Ground has a rating of 4.2 and Sydney has no rating whatsoever.
Also, the Emirates Cricket Board has already emulated some of the top "establishment" cricket boards by having a useless website full of photographs of politicians and hardly any information. The "About Us" link is a case in point. Also, like some of the so-called advanced cricketing nations, the UAE already has a rebel cricket tournament - Desert Premier League T20 - that is being conducted without ECB approval. All participants in the DPLT20 have been banned from official ECB tournaments.
Perhaps nothing seals the UAE's legitimacy to be a cricketing superpower more than the fact that the first match played by the national team, against a Pakistan International Airlines side, in Sharjah in 1976, was called off due to rain. Due to rain. In the UAE. That is how serious the UAE is about this great sport.
True Emirati fans like myself sincerely hope that the team's performance in the forthcoming World Cups will, inshallah, vindicate our loyalty, and cement the UAE's place at the apex of world cricket. Where we rightfully belong.
Emarat! Emarat! Go Expat Falcons go!

Sidin Vadukut is a columnist and editor with Mint, and the author of the Dork trilogy