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Construction workers give finishing touches to one of the stands at the new cricket stadium in Industrial Area in Doha yesterday. The Qatar players are seen training during a net practice session. PICTURES: ABDUL BASIT
BY RIZWAN REHMAT
DOHA: Qatar’s brand new cricket stadium in Industrial Area looks equipped to host One-Day Internationals (ODI) in the future, a top Asian Cricket Council (ACC) official said yesterday.
Bandula Warnapura, the ACC Development Manager, last week inspected the new cricket stadium.
“The stadium looks good to host an ODI,” Warnapura, a former Test player, said.
“The stadium is fantastic, I must say ... one of the best I have seen in this region,” the former Sri Lankan Test skipper added in an exclusive interview.
The Qatar Cricket Association (QCA), an affiliate member of world body International Cricket Council (ICC), is pushing for a top event in Doha once the new facility is completed.
Yet to be named, the new cricket stadium is in Industrial Area and easily approachable from any part of the city. It is a couple of minutes’ drive from the Qatar Racing Club (QRC).
In a detailed chat prior to flying out of Doha after his inspection visit, Warnapura, 59, spoke at length about the prospect of hosting international matches in Qatar and development of cricket in the country.
How was your visit to Qatar?
Bandula Warnapura: I was here for an inspection that the ACC had to carry out on the new ground that Qatar have developed and the other facilities that they need to develop. They (Qatar) are interested in hosting an ACC tournament along with other matches possible after putting up with the new stadium and turf facilities. Of course, any country needs two grounds and two sets of pitches to host any tournament. They have the required facilities now. And the timing (to host an event) got to be important from the ACC’s point of view. Now we have to work details out as to when and how (an event could be staged). So that’s number one. The second thing is that we want them (QCA) to become an associate member of ICC. They are getting closer now. The area that they have developed is a standard cricket facility. I am sure we can achieve more.
From your visit to the new facility, do you think Qatar can host an ODI?
Warnapura: Yes, I think so. They have everything. The surroundings are okay. The pavilion is okay. You have to have a match referee coming from the ICC. That will happen as soon as they finish the stadium. I am sure it is a great achievement. And I am happy about it.
Were you invited by the QCA to inspect their new facility?
Warnapura: They made a request at our AGM to consider giving them a tournament. So the Executive Board of the ACC asked me to go down there and do an inspection, to see whether they (Qatar) have the required facilities to host an event. So the stadium is fantastic, I must say. One of the best I have seen in this region.
Why do you say that?
Warnapura: I mean when the new stadium is complete, the new stands, the seats, the media boxes, the dressing rooms - all that. That will be a great achievement. A country that has not had any tournament before and a country that has not been able to become one of the top cricket playing nations in the region, for them to have this facility is a big achievement. I believe the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) has helped them a lot. That’s a plus mark.
What do you think they need to do get an international event in Doha?
Warnapura: They have the intention, yes. The requirement is that what type of tournament we are giving them. If you see the T20, then two grounds are sufficient. But if it is a 50-over event, then you need two and half grounds. When you have two venues being used, then the non-playing teams can practise somewhere on turf. They have to have at least a half ground with turf facility. Or some area where they can practise on turf. Hotels ought to be closer to stadium which they have. Those are the things you need. Qatar will be hosting the 2022 soccer (FIFA) World Cup so that will be a major plus for the hosts here. They got to have confidence to host ACC or ICC events.
Don’t you feel that Qatar could be another moot point for a cricket-playing country like Pakistan who can’t host matches on their home soil?
Warnapura: The stadium looks good to host an ODI. But to host an ODI the ground has to be approved by the ICC. That’s what I said that once the stadium is complete, we can request the ICC to do an inspection and see whether this venue could be suitable for ODI status. I don’t think it would be difficult to host an ODI here but Qatar (QCA) needs to build relations with the Test playing nations, especially with a country like Pakistan. Another important point is how well they work with sponsors.
In a nutshell, how long do you think Qatar would take to host an international match or tournament?
Warnapura: I can’t say it would happen in 2013 or 2014. It depends on what kind of relationships they have with (Test playing) countries. If they go through the embassies or governments, they might send a goodwill team initially. Such things could lead to other (positive) developments. Once you build confidence in your organisation - with facilities and other areas - then people won’t have any fear to come here. The ball is in their (Qatar’s) court.
If you were to meet the top sports officials in Qatar, what would you tell them?
Warnapura: I would like to tell them is there has to be Qatari involvement (in the game’s development). We need to have players coming up. The Olympic committee may not spend so much money on expatriates. Therefore, the locals have to play. The quality of local players has also got to improve. Qatar team should at least - immediately - have three or four players. When the Olympic committee gets involved, then the whole country gets involved. That is the number one step. Once this happens, the sponsors also move in.
What kind of support can ACC provide QCA with?
Warnapura: We have given them enough support and we leave it in their hands. We have given them expert help. We have a Development Officer working with them. That person is in charge of the matters here. We have also given them umpires to develop the umpiring aspect. They just has a scorer’s education course. We have assisted them in getting a curator. So in support areas, we do whatever we can.
Would you agree that Qatar is a sports-loving country and all this adds up nicely?
Warnapura: Yes, of course. Qatar has been one of the sports loving countries and what we have seen is that they take part in the Olympics and win medals. Not many countries have done that. And it is easy country to visit. So these are the advantages to develop cricket in a country where sports is loved by most people. With the government support coming in, all of this could be achieved faster.
When can we expect you back in Doha?
Warnapura: As soon as they have this facility ready. Or when they are ready to host a match at the new facility. Let’s see how it goes. They are interested and we are interested.
What do you want to see when you come here?
Warnapura: I would like to see another ground as a back-up facility. To have three grounds is ideal. Let’s say you have a tournament of 10 teams, then you need third ground to wind up an event on time. For them to host a T20 event, they have to be in the tournament. That’s the challenge. THE PENINSULA