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Sharjah aims to restore former glory

AFP
Nov 02, 2011 at 11:16am IST

Sharjah: Fondly remembered as the 'oasis of cricket', the Sharjah stadium will reemerge on the international horizon with the staging of the third and final Test between Pakistan and Sri Lanka starting from Thursday.

From Javed Miandad's last-ball six to hat-tricks from legendary Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan and Pakistan's famed paceman Wasim Akram, and India's Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar's batting, the stadium has seen it all.

Earlier this year the stadium found a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for playing host to 200 one-day international matches, the most at any one venue.

Test venue Sharjah aims to restore former glory

The Sharjah stadium will reemerge on the cricket horizon with the third Test between Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Built in the early 1980s, the stadium soon became a neutral venue for the mouth-watering clashes between arch-rivals India and Pakistan, who did not get to host each other due to strained relations between the two governments.

Hosted under the auspices of Cricketers Benefit Fund Series by businessman Abdul Rahman Bukhatir, the events also saw some of the former greats from both Pakistan and India honoured with benefits funds for their services.

Pakistan also played two Tests each against the West Indies and Australia after both teams refused to tour them in the wake of a war on terror sparked in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks on the United States in 2001. But the Indian government's refusal to allow its national team to play in Sharjah in 2003 left the desert ground deserted.

After a nine-year lull, international activities are on the verge of being revived with the Test match as Pakistan wanted a third venue in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after being forced to play at neutral venues due to security fears back home.

Officials of the Sharjah Cricket Club (SCS), which owns the stadium, are only too happy to be back in the international spotlight.

"Everyone is waiting with bated breath for the return of the glory days of Sharjah stadium so we look forward to welcoming cricket fans, young and old, to our new and improved stadium," said Waleed Bukhatir, the SCS vice-chairman.

The 27,000 capacity stadium equipped with floodlights will also hold one of five one-day matches which follow the Tests in the series on November 20.

Mazhar Khan, a well-known and respected figure in UAE cricket, said Sharjah's reemergence will help the cricket world a great deal.

"We have been a home for the Afghanistan cricket team and now this is a great honour to host teams from Pakistan and Sri Lanka," said Khan, who promotes cricket in the Gulf.

"We are keen to work with the same zeal and energy to make this beautiful venue more attractive for teams and for spectators and hope other teams will also come here and play."

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