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Posted On: 12 July 2011 09:38 am
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:11 pm

Cricket’s home in football-crazy Qatar

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A cricket ground in Qatar where the love of football knows no bounds is a reality in the country. A well-equipped cricket facility has sprung up in Mesaieed as part of a QR22m multi-purpose sports stadium. Some 45-kilometres from Doha, the ground has the potential to see the fancy of thousands of cricket lovers, mostly from the Indian subcontinent, being indulged at a sprawling facility. Standing in the middle of the new Mesaieed cricket ground, one feels overjoyed to see the gentleman’s game taking shape in Qatar. The spacious ground and stands speak of the great numbers in which cricket would be viewed for the first time here. The lantern grass reminds cricket lovers of the Oval, considered the Mecca of cricket. The sight of the new cricket facility, part of the Mesaieed community’s multimillion riyal sports project, is bound to make you feel euphoric, especially if you have ever been part of local cricket. From the facilities available, to the way the game has been traditionally viewed — everything is about to change. A far cry from the historical desert landscape on which cricket has been played in Qatar for the past 40 years or so, today the game can be played in a sports stadium, on grass instead of sandy and uneven terrain. The story of the new facility began four years ago when word about a new multi-purpose sports stadium spread among the residents of Mesaieed Industrial City (MIC). The demand was put forth before the authorities, and what followed constitutes the building blocks of cricket history in Qatar. “The scope of cricket is increasing with every passing day in Qatar. With the help of business fraternity and the right kind of investment, this sport can actually see its boom here,” said Maliq Omer Al Dafna, the Manager of the MIC Cricket Organising Committee. Almost every industry of MIC has a cricket team of its own. With 23 major industries in which more than 6,000 expatriate work, all of whom love cricket, the organisers were hard pressed to seriously consider the construction of a large-scale cricket facility. “We only wanted to serve the Mesaieed community,” said Ziyad Ghazi Al Zabet, the President of MIC Cricket Organising Committee, when asked about the purpose of building the stadium. “Along with sports such as football, basketball and handball, we decided to work on the cricket ground because we have an overwhelming majority of players and fans of this game in our community,” he said. It was sought that the new stadium would provide recreation and entertainment opportunities to MIC residents. After its official inauguration in January, the first Mesaieed Cricket Cup was organised on the ground. As anticipated, within days 13 teams registered for the tournament. Shahid Chowdry, the winning Captain of Qalco cricket team, right now the best team in town, said that playing on the new ground was nothing short of a blissful experience. “I’ve been playing cricket in Qatar for the past 14 years. One of the main problems we have faced time and again is the absence of a proper cricket facility,” he said. More than anyone else, veterans appreciate the new facility. Mohammad Iqbal used to play for Al Fardan cricket team in his heydays. He gained fame in Qatar due to his skill as a fast bowler. “I’ve bruised my arms and knees innumerable times,” he said when asked about what it was like to play cricket back in the days. But the players were least concerned about injuries. “We only wanted to play cricket. It didn’t matter where we played it,” he said. Without a stadium, players had to make do without essentials. They never had the privilege of playing on green ground. Because they usually played in open grounds, there never had a parking area, washrooms, or even a stand where players could sit. “What we had was an uneven ground, where cricket fanatics anticipated their turn to prove their skill,” said Iqbal. It was only the spirit and perseverance of players that kept the game alive.