Abu Dhabi: The iconic Sharjah Cricket Stadium is all set to get a major facelift, confirmed Waleed Bukhatir, vice-chairman of Sharjah Cricket Council (SCC) and executive committee member of the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB).
UAE’s first international cricket venue — which holds the Guinness Book of Records for hosting the most number of one-day matches — cannot lag behind the times, Bukhatir feels.
“We have decided that the facilities in the stadium have to be state-of-the-art. You know it is in the Guinness Book of Records as well so we cannot stay behind. It means we need more seating capacity, better facilities for players and fans,” said Bukhatir, whose father Abdul Rahman Bukhatir was instrumental in establishing the stadium way back in 1981. The stadium initially started with a few limited seats and modest facilities but by 2002 had around a 15,000 capacity and floodlights.
Between 1984 and 2003, the ground hosted 198 ODIs and held four Tests in 2002 following Pakistan’s political instability and attracted plenty of the Asian expat population.
The senior Bukhatir, known as the father of cricket in the UAE, was also instrumental in making the venue more popular by hosting the Masters event and other second-string tournaments which were played under the auspices of The Cricketers Benefit Fund Series (CBFS) which had been established in 1981 by him.
The main aim of this tournament was to honour cricketers of the past and present generations from India and Pakistan with benefit purses for their dedication and services to cricket.
However, Sharjah’s cricketing charm got a beating following the match-fixing scandal that came to light in the late 90s. Although nothing was ever proved, teams chose to stay away from the high profile venue which has so far hosted a record 225 ODIs.
Nevertheless, with cricket coming back to the UAE, and with associate countries agreeing to play matches again, things have changed. Pakistan have made the UAE their second home due to their security problems and two more top-class cricket venues have come up in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
This has left the Sharjah stadium with no choice but to upgrade itself to regain the old glory days.
“We need to have an indoor training facility, medical facility and hospitality enclosures. We are yet to decide on what would be the exact seating capacity but there will definitely be a substantial increase in the seating,” revealed Bukhatir.