Abu Dhabi: The Indian Premier League has boosted the UAE’s aspirations to be the sporting hub of the Middle East, according to Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister for Culture, Youth and Community Development and chairman of the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB).
“We are honoured to have the first leg of the IPL here. We have a long-lasting friendship with India. There is a sizeable community here and cricket is gaining momentum here in UAE,” Shaikh Nahyan said during the second game between Sunrisers Hyderabad and the Rajasthan Royals on Friday.
“We hope that there are elections in India every year so that we can host the IPL here,” he joked, of the reason why matches are being held here until April 30. “We are used to staging world-class events here in the UAE. We have the Abu Dhabi Jiu-JItsu World Championship going on at the moment. We have the tennis tournaments. We also held the Under-17 Football World Cup last year. The UAE is becoming a hub for sport.
“And we are fortunate to host the IPL in the UAE. We hope we can hold IPL in the UAE in the near future. When we heard that they were looking for a venue, we were very excited. Even the media have been very responsive to the event. So far, it has been running smoothly.”
Shaikh Nahyan was also present for the tournament opener between defending champions Mumbai Indians and the Kolkata Knight Riders at the Shaikh Zayed International Cricket Stadium on Wednesday night, along with KKR owner Shah Rukh Khan. He left during the innings break, but made sure to call up later to find out the outcome of the match.
“We had no doubt that it would be sold out. Tickets sold out within hours of them going online. We are very happy that it has had a good response. It is a great tournament and great league, and so far, it has been good,” he said.