A high-profile cricket tournament that was scheduled to be held in Qatar next year may be headed for the UAE after all, according to multiple reports.
Organizers announced less than a month ago that the first edition of the Pakistan Twenty20 cricket Super League (PSL) would be held at Asian Town (previously known as West End Park) in the Industrial Area.
The league was originally going to be hosted by the UAE, but was moved to Qatar after the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) found that all the venues were already booked for the February 2016 slot for the Masters Champions League, a tournament for retired cricketers, media reports said last month.
Pakistan has played all of its international matches in the UAE since 2009, when gunmen in Lahore fired upon a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team.
Now, however, ESPN cricinfo reports that the PCB said it was in talks with the Emirates Cricket Board over the possibility of hosting the tournament in the UAE after all.
Other media, such as The Indian Express, cited anonymous sources as saying an agreement has been in reached in principle between the Pakistan and UAE cricket associations to share venues in Dubai and Sharjah with the planned Masters Cricket League.
‘No official news’
The report added that holding the tournament in Qatar was still under consideration.
An official from Qatar Cricket Association told Doha News that they had not been notified of any changes.
“There are lots of rumors going on,” said Gul Khan, the association’s head of events and tournaments. “Everybody is talking … but there is no official news,” he added.
The choice of Qatar as tournament host was criticized by some commentators who argued that the UAE was more prepared to host the Pakistan Super League.
Relying on a sole stadium to hold all the matches and practices would present logistical headaches, some said, adding that the UAE would be a more financially lucrative host country that could accommodate larger crowds.
Even if the T20 league was moved to the UAE, Khan said he was confident that Qatar would be able to secure another high-caliber tournament in the near future:
“We have big grounds. We have good support from the government. We have everything. We want cricket here in Qatar … Very soon, you will see a big tournament here. We’ll prove to the world that we can do it,” he said.
PCB officials were not immediately available to comment this afternoon.
T20 cricket is a short form of the game, where two teams have a single innings each up to a maximum of 20 overs. With the average match lasting up to three hours rather than over several days as in Test cricket, it is a faster-paced game developed to attract more spectators to grounds and to boost TV viewership.
The PSL was expected to bring many big-name players and international sponsors to Qatar, where matches would have been played at the Asian Town international cricket stadium. The facility was expected to undergo modifications to make it suitable.
The Asian Town ground, which was opened in 2013 and can hold approximately 13,000 spectators, hosted two smaller T20 tournaments for Qatar-based clubs last summer.
Meanwhile, local officials continue to work on positioning Qatar as a global sports hub. The country is hosting several major international tournaments ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
Some 89 local, regional and international sporting events were scheduled to take place in Qatar between April 2015 and March 2016 alone, according to the Qatar Olympic Committee.
That includes next month’s AIBA World Boxing Championship for Men, which is expected to take place at Al Sadd Sports Club from Oct. 5 to 15 – the first time the tournament is coming to the region.