September 24, 2021

Saudi Arabian cricket is in the process of major transformation

3 min read
Ranked 28th in the latest ICC T20I standings, Saudi Arabia is not a name which...

Ranked 28th in the latest ICC T20I standings, Saudi Arabia is not a name which is synonymous with the sport of cricket. However, that could all change if the latest push to promote cricket in the region can ignite the requisite spark.
It is football which has dominated the landscape of the Middle Eastern Kingdom, with five FIFA World Cup qualifications in the last seven editions confirming their status as giants of the Asian continent.
While football continues to thrive in Saudi Arabia, the past few years have seen several high-profile sporting events and athletes make their way to the Kingdom. Under the broad vision of the Vision2030 masterplan, Saudi Arabia has recently played host to some of the biggest boxing, wrestling, tennis, golf and car-rallying events.
Later this year, the country will stage its maiden Formula One Grand Prix with a night race at the Jeddah Street Circuit.
As the slew of investment into various sports continues to pick up steam, cricket in Saudi Arabia is poised to receive a fillip with a renewed focus into the game’s development. With a substantial expatriate population hailing from the Indian subcontinent, cricket has always had a vast underlying potential to grow in the region.
Historic roots of cricket in Saudi Arabia date back to the 1960s, though it was only in 2003 that the Kingdom became an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council (ICC). It was further upgraded to an Associate status on 2016, while also being inducted as a full member of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) in the same year.
An outstanding wrap up of the second week of the National Cricket Championship. @Saudi_SFA #saudicricket#healthyactivecommunity pic.twitter.com/yeQESn8vEU— الاتحاد السعودي للكريكيت | SACF (@cricketsaudi) March 10, 2021
It is on this foundation that Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation (SACF) under its chairman Prince Saud Bin Mishaal Al Saud seeks to usher in a new vision for expansion of the sport. Having come into existence in 2020 as the single administrative body for cricket in Saudi Arabia, the SACF has laid down long-term targets for bolstering community participation among Saudis and expatriates alike.
Working towards the ultimate goal of establishing competitive Saudi Arabian national teams, SACF has recently launched several initiatives which include the formation of the National Cricket Championship.
The ongoing maiden edition of the domestic tournament has seen a participation of over 7,000 players, with matches being held over 11 different venues across the Kingdom. The chairman of SACF has asserted that this program is just the start of a major overhaul, and several more initiatives are in the pipeline.
“One of our biggest plans is to have a proper infrastructure for the game, since we don’t have it today,” Prince Saud Bin Mishal Al Saud told Arab News in a recent interview.
“We are planning to have cricket academies, more grounds, better facilities with entertainment and other services around them to attract Saudi as well as foreign youth to the game.
“We are talking to coaches and legends of the game, and we will have them qualify and improve coaches in domestic cricket and help at the national level.”
In its bid to raise awareness about the game in Saudi Arabia, the federation has signed several MoUs with governmental, semi-governmental and private entities. In the last week, the SACF chairman has visited the ICC headquarters in Dubai to meet with officials of the world governing body of the sport. The chairman also paid a visit to the Sharjah Cricket Stadium where he was given a first-hand view of the facilities and ground management.
Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation’s chairman HRH Prince Saud bin Mishal visits the International Cricket Council (ICC) in Dubai, [email protected] #SACF #saudicricket #cricket #icc pic.twitter.com/H2ZMNtHdzq— الاتحاد السعودي للكريكيت | SACF (@cricketsaudi) June 5, 2021
Those meetings in the UAE came on the heels of the chairman hosting the Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Dr. Ausaf Sayeed in Riyadh. The discussion revolved around how the two countries could co-operate to grow the sport across Saudi Arabia.
SACF are definitely making all the right noises with their vision for cricket in Saudi Arabia, and a promising future looks to be in store for the sport in the Kingdom.
The UAE and Oman have been the dominant cricketing forces in the Gulf so far, but there could soon be another serious player in the region if all goes to plan for SACF.
 

Source link