So the Black Caps are now in the United Arab Emirates to play Pakistan in three one-dayers and two 20-20s (dropping an ODI from the plan from the original announcement). In fact, the first game is on Tuesday (Wednesday our time no doubt). I’ve added the series to my schedule here.
The ODIs will be played at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, the western-most of the UAE’s seven emirates, while the 20-20s will be played at the Dubai Sports City Cricket Stadium, in the next emirate to the east. I recall when cricket in the UAE used to be an annual international fixture. But that was at Sharjah, the third emirate from west to east.
Sharjah used to host a melange of ODI series, with a medley of cups and trophies, under a confusion of sponsors, with e.g. the Pepsi Cup being held one year and the Coca-Cola Cup the next. But there hasn’t been any cricket held in Sharjah for many years. It hadn’t occurred to me that Sharjah had fallen off the cricket map. Apparently, Sharjah has been tainted with the stain of match fixing and the stadium there has been abandoned to the wildlife. I’d somehow managed to miss all that.
But cricket is back in UAE. (And of course, let’s not forget that the ICC has its offices in the tax haven of Dubai.) Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai have built magnificent cricket stadiums and are crying out for top class team to come and play against Pakistan.
This happens to be a home series for the Pakistan team, despite being playing hundreds of miles from Pakistan. Perhaps the only significance in this is that Pakistan get to use their groundsmen to prepare the pitches.
Players to watch
Scott Styris: He hasn’t had a turn at bat in an ODI for over a year. Have the selectors been justified in keeping him out?
Tim Southee: Another player returning to the team. To date, he alone is all the selectors have identified as the future of New Zealand bowling. If this is going to eventuate, he is going to have to make an impact at some point.
Younis Khan: Out and in as captain in the matter of a few days. He’s done it before and has had periods where he refused to take the captaincy. You’ve got to assume he doesn’t like the job, or he just likes to shake the boat.
Mohammad Aamir: Another Pakistan teenage tear-away. Fast, accurate and aggressive. It is usually a curse to have such things said about you, but he could be a new Wasim Akram.