Sharjah. Abdulrehman Bukhatir, the man who brought cricket into the desert by building the Sharjah Cricket Stadium turned up to watch the 225th One Day International match at this venue. He sat in the VIP box of this stadium, which figures in the Guinness Book of world records for hosting the maximum number of ODIs with his sons Waleed Bukhatir and Khalaf Bukhatir.
A few minutes later the legendary West Indies player Viv Richards too joined him.
In an exclusive interview with Gulf News, Bukhatir, when asked about how does it feel on the stadium passing through various milestones and swelling the tally for the highest number of ODIs, said: “It’s best to continue playing within the limitation we have and Pakistan have been very helpful using our facilities to stage their matches here. We are very happy to be of assistance to them until they sort their problems. Because of them we are also getting our players gain more experience in the game. An interest is building up among the younger generation since the Pakistan team playing here regularly. This is a good thing for the UAE.”
When Bukhatir first invited international cricketers to play here, many had wondered how cricket can be played in a desert. Today this venue has staged not only ODIs but Test cricket and Twenty20 matches and led the way for creation of two more international stadiums in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. With Dubai set to stage the first day-night Test match with pink ball from October 13, UAE would thus become part of all modern developments in the game. “I don’t know how it will be to play Test with pink ball, maybe the lights will have to be adjusted,” said Bukhatir, whose son Waleed now carries the mantle of spreading the game as executive committee member of Emirates Cricket Board, chief selector of the UAE national team, vice chairman of Sharjah Cricket Club and chairman of Al Dhaid cricket village.
Bukhatir reminded that cricket development isn’t an easy task here. “This is not a cricket playing country. It’s a football playing country and whatever can be done by the passionate individuals helps a lot. Some Shaikhs are very helpful. For example, Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development and chairman of the Emirates Cricket Board, is of great help and doing a lot to develop cricket. It’s nice because youngsters want to play cricket.”
Bukhatir went on to explain why cricket should be promoted. “I feel the people who are working here (in UAE) when they are the majority more than the nationals they deserve to get the encouragement. We have to get the government involved in cricket but it’s not working out so far. The demographic population is such that lots of these people’s children who want to play cricket don’t have the infrastructure to do it. Infrastructure always costs money and hence need government support. It’s expensive but somebody has to address this matter. A delegation should go to the government and request for more facilities,” he said.
When asked whether he would like to have an India-Pakistan series again here, Bukhatir said: “I don’t want to get involved in it because it is politics. The India-Pakistan politics is very funny politics. When the politicians were not involved, it was fine.”