Photo used for illustrative purposes.
Gulf Today Report
In a cricket-crazy country like India, this news will be highly welcome. Saudi Arabia is not just playing key roles in the political and business spheres, it is also foraying into the field of sports.
It has been hosting the Formula 1 Grand Prix, bought Newcastle United, and inked iconic footballer Cristiano Ronaldo for Al Nassr Club. Now it is eyeing the gentleman’s game: it wants to host the world’s richest cricket tournament in the country. For this it has offered owners of the Indian Premier League the chance to set up the planet’s richest T20 League in the nation.
Jay Shah, the secretary of India’s top cricket body, the BCCI, is keen on visualising a growing footprint for Saudi Arabia in cricket. “This partnership will create newer opportunities for cricket in Saudi and strengthen the sport in the region,” Shah said, according to a report in a section of the Australian media.
At present, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) bans Indian players from taking part in leagues abroad. However, that could see a sea change: a proposal from the Saudi Arabian government over a new T20 league being set up there could goad the body into having second thoughts on the matter.
ICC chairman Greg Barclay confirmed Saudi Arabian interest in cricket. “If you look at other sports they’ve been involved in, cricket is something I imagine would be attractive to them,” he said. “Given their advance into sport more generally, cricket would work quite well for Saudi Arabia.
“Our aim is to create a sustainable industry for locals and expats living in the Kingdom and make Saudi Arabia a global cricketing destination,” Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation Chairman Prince Saud Bin Mishal Al-Saud remarked in an interview to an Arab daily last month.
Saudi government and business officials have been spotted in India’s cricketing circles, looking to get the IPL owners and the BCCI itself hop onto their planned Twenty20 league bandwagon which would stand head-to-head with the IPL in terms of financial power.
Saudi Arabia has set its sights on being the No.1 tourist hotspot for India in seven years. The kingdom is an associate member of the International Cricket Council and fosters local men’s and women’s cricket programmes.
Pakistan cricket, too, has been eyeing a tieup with Saudi Arabia. In February, former captain Wasim Akram visited Riyadh and spoke of his eagerness to be involved in the launch of a league there.
“What a trip to Riyadh,” Akram wrote in a Facebook post. “Had a great meeting with [Prince Saud Bin Mishal Al-Saud], talked about cricket in Saudi Arabia, and so looking forward to a Saudi league Insha Allah very soon.”