The United Arab Emirates’ continued growth and development in indoor cricket will see it host two major indoor cricket tournaments next year, following the World Indoor Cricket Federation’s (WICF) decision to move the 2023 Junior World Series event from Johannesburg to Dubai, scheduled for September 29 to October 7. In addition, U-Pro Dubai (UPS) will host the first-ever Indoor Cricket Club World Series, a club-based invitational event, this coming April.
2023 Junior World Series location changed following Board agreements
The WICF made the announcement following a discussion with Indoor Cricket South Africa (ICSA), with Johannesburg originally scheduled to host the event. The move was made due to the better geographical reach that the majority of indoor cricket playing nations have with the Emirates, which has been seen to be in the wider interests of promoting the junior game. The WICF stated in their press release that they have a greater commitment from most nations to send teams over, expecting this to be the biggest junior world tournament to date. South Africa will still be a co-host of this event with UAE. The venue is yet to be confirmed but is likely to be one of Insportz Club or UPS, which are the two of the four main indoor sports centres in the UAE, all based in Dubai.
Managing Director of U-Pro Dubai and UAE Indoor Cricket Affiliate, Manish Kishore, explained this further to Emerging Cricket, within the context of UAE’s developing indoor cricket programme. “The idea was to be in a more accessible country where the maximum number of teams can take part. The UAE will always be an ideal destination for sporting events, not just cricket, because of access to easier flights, accommodation, tourist activities, and infrastructure. The Junior World Series will benefit from all of that”.
UAE to host second world tournament in five years
This will be the UAE’s second world tournament held after hosting the Open’s World Cup in 2017. In indoor cricket the three main world tournaments – Opens World Cup, Masters World Series, and Junior World Series, are all held on a triennial basis, but this has been affected in the last two to three years due to the impacts of COVID-19. Following the easing of travel restrictions, UAE successfully hosted Sri Lanka in March while England and South Africa also travelled to the Middle East for a tri-series in April. UAE won their first-ever bilateral series with the win against Sri Lanka and followed this up with a win in the tri-series as well, defeating England in the final.
Kishore is hopeful this event and other tours in the coming year will provide more exposure for indoor cricket in the Emirates and an opportunity to start building their junior and women’s programmes. He also acknowledged the Open Men’s performance at the recent World Cup in Melbourne (UAE lost to South Africa in the Plate final).
“The WICF has backed the Junior World Series moving to Dubai on the basis that more countries have committed to putting out teams. This is slated to be the biggest Juniors event ever”, said Kishore.
“From a personal perspective, I was disappointed with the UAE (Open Men) team’s performance (at the World Cup). We have really skilled players, but lack in game tactics, which costs us dearly in big games. However, there will be changes in the squad moving forward, and hopefully we will see more improvement in UAE cricket. With the juniors coming to Dubai, we are certain we will start a programme to bring more youth to the game. Australia are also committed to touring Dubai next year with their Men’s, Women’s, Under-22 Men and Under-22 Women, so UAE will make giant strides in Women’s cricket next year”.
The last Junior World Series was held in Christchurch in October 2018. That tournament featured 18 teams from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, England and Singapore across the Under-17 Girls and Under-17, Under-15 and Under-13 Boys divisions.
Dubai’s Club World Series another innovative step forward
UAE has been touted as the country which plays the most indoor cricket by volume, with a number of tournaments being played throughout the year. They feature the style, glamour, auctions and franchising one has come to expect from the likes of the IPL. The Mirchi Premier League, held in 2015, was the world’s first franchise-based indoor cricket tournament. Since this time, there have been up to 75 franchise tournaments held there, which represented a fundamental shift from the traditional club cricket model. It has seen the UAE’s player base increase to between 500-700 players as a result and brought about some of the improvements and results they have seen in the past year.
Kishore, who is also the Chief Operating Officer of the Delhi Bulls T10 franchise, has one more innovation that he is expecting to get off the ground this April: the first-ever indoor cricket Club World Series.
“Pretty early this year, I realised that a major section of the indoor cricket community get left behind in playing outside of the national level, because either they are competing to play for their country, or they’re just unlucky to make the final squads. More often than not, that could potentially reduce their interest for the game. So to keep the game moving, keeping more interest among the indoor community for years to come, I decided to contribute to our sport by putting together this concept”, Kishore said.
The tournament has recently been endorsed by the WICF and is scheduled to be held from 24-28 April 2023 at UPS in Dubai. It will consist of Open Men’s, Open Women’s and Masters (Over-40) divisions and is an invitational tournament for all indoor cricket clubs from around the world. UPS is partnering with Sri Lanka Indoor Cricket and their Head of Technical Hiran De Mel, as well as current England coach and former New Zealand international Matt Henderson (who ran a training camp in the UAE this year and coached UAE during the Sri Lanka series) for the tournament. It is expected to be held in Dubai every alternative year, with Sri Lanka identified as the location for 2024.
Indoor cricket barriers to entry matched with innovations
While the interest so far has been encouraging, as with all indoor cricket initiatives, being an amateur sport (a pay-to-play model), costs for travel and time away are significant contributing factors. “The interest has been positive from across the world, however as is the story with indoor cricket, teams/players require more time to manage funds and leave from work, in order to travel. We have talks ongoing with teams from South Africa, India, New Zealand, Singapore, Australia and England (to attend), so we will see how it pans out”.
However, participants can expect a certain experience at the UPS facility for the tournament. “We have four recently relayed pitches (all different colours), online streaming of matches and the world’s most advanced decision review system, which we first tried in the Sri Lanka series. At least 90% of reviews are delivered in 30 seconds to ensure the novelty of the quick paced indoor game is never compromised. We are working on other initiatives to make this a truly unique experience”, said Kishore.
Whatever the result is, the Emirates are making a serious play to inject quality, presentation, vibrancy and inclusion into indoor cricket at its different levels.