RIYADH: Cricket is about to take a large leap throughout Saudi Arabia with the sport’s ruling physique within the Kingdom set to introduce a collection of competitions and applications that may encourage the nation’s youth to take up one of many world’s oldest and hottest sports activities.
For years, even many years, cricket in Saudi Arabia was a recreation performed virtually completely by expatriate communities from South Asian nations.
However issues are set to vary quickly.
Immediately, the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation (SACF), established in 2020, has lined up a collection of main applications centered on selling the sport amongst Saudis and expatriates within the Kingdom.
Above all, long run plans have been put in place to make sure that Saudi Arabian nationwide groups can compete with the world’s finest sooner or later.
With Prince Saud Bin Mishal Al Saud as chairman, the federation is now the one physique answerable for all issues referring to cricket within the Kingdom. After a 12 months of main disruptions for all sporting actions, cricket is primed for a contemporary begin.
“As a result of COVID19 outbreak final 12 months, we have been unfortunate,” SACF chairman instructed Arab Information. “We began in August after the scenario improved, and since then, we now have been very busy with the organising of many applications, with a number of offers and MoUs signed with the governmental, semi-governmental and non-governmental entities.”
These steps are set to be game-changers in elevating cricket’s profile amongst Saudis and expatriates alike.
“We signed a cope with the Sports activities for All Federation (SFA) to launch four applications and we began with the Nationwide Cricket Championship,” Prince Saud stated. “It’s the largest ever cricket event within the historical past of Saudi Arabia. We now have greater than 7,000 gamers and 360 groups participating within the mega-competition performed at over 100 grounds throughout 11 cities within the Kingdom.”
The in manufacturing of this competitors introduced aggressive cricket motion to Riyadh, Dammam, Jubail, Jeddah, Madinah, Yanbu, Tabuk, Abha, Jazan, Qassim and Najran.
Within the first match week of the Nationwide Cricket Championship, 107 matches passed off between 214 groups, whereas within the second week 85 matches have been performed between 170 groups. The third week noticed 113 matches have been performed between 226 groups, the fourth and newest match-day week of motion, accomplished on March 26, witnessed a brand new file of 144 matches contested between 288 groups, and 5,085 gamers.
Crucially, different neighborhood degree initiatives have been established.
“We now have three different applications,” Prince Saud added. “There shall be a company cricket event launched in October and November, we now have a cricket league for expatriate employees, and we now have a social cricket program launched in varied cities. All year long, we’re planning to have 20,000 members participating in these applications in 2021.”
These applications are a part of the Kingdom’s mission to advertise a wholesome and lively life-style beneath the Saudi Imaginative and prescient 2030’s High quality of Life program, with the SACF, supported by the Ministry of Sports activities and Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, mandated to extend bodily exercise ranges by 40 p.c over the following decade.
Prince Saud is eager to draw Saudi youth to cricket by extra faculty actions and neighborhood applications.
“One in all our largest plans is to have a correct infrastructure for the sport, since we don’t have it right this moment,” Prince Saud stated. “We’re planning to have cricket academies, extra grounds, higher amenities with leisure and different providers round them to draw Saudi in addition to international youth to the sport.
“One in all our largest aims is to convey higher high quality of life for expatriates working right here. We now have about eight million individuals from Asian nations the place cricket is the preferred recreation, locations akin to India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka,” he added.
The chairman additionally revealed that the SACF was one of many first federations invited to determine a presence on the new metropolis of NEOM, the place cricket amenities are being deliberate to cater to virtually 35,000 individuals working there.
Whereas cricket has lengthy been performed amongst nation’s South Asian communities, with a number of native competitions established over the previous couple of many years, a better degree of coordination with the federation will be anticipated now, with Prince Saud revealing that the SACF are planning applications involving embassies and firms which have important numbers of workers who participate in home cricket matches.
The SACF’s plans, nonetheless, go properly past neighborhood degree participation. In the end, the purpose is to supply aggressive Saudi Arabian nationwide groups.
“We’re at the moment 28th out of 105 nations within the Worldwide Cricket Council (ICC) T20 international rankings, which is nice,” stated Prince Saud. “We turned an ICC member in 2003 and labored our method as much as this rank. Now we’re signing up with certified coaches and advisors for us to change into a good higher crew.”
The coronavirus disaster could have halted all sporting actions for a 12 months, however Prince Saud insists that issues will change as soon as a way of normalcy returns.
“Due to the pandemic, faculties have been closed and operating on-line courses, however as quickly because the scenario improves and faculties reopen, we can have a full program of tournaments between faculties all around the Kingdom, in addition to worldwide participation,” he stated.
The correct individuals shall be employed and trusted to take the sport ahead.
“We’re speaking to coaches and legends of the sport, and we can have them qualify and enhance coaches in home cricket and assist on the nationwide degree,” Prince Saud outlined.
The long-term purpose is for Saudi Arabian cricket groups to compete professionally at regional and worldwide competitions, in addition to to draw a number of the world’s most interesting cricketers to the Kingdom.
“We’re planning to have some competitions throughout the GCC,” stated Prince Saud. “Due to pandemic we could have just one or two competitions to play overseas, however as soon as we now have established a strong infrastructure within the Kingdom, we’ll look to host huge tournaments and leagues from franchises of different main competitions.”
Such long-term considering will little question play a significant half in elevating cricket’s reputation amongst a brand new demographic in Saudi Arabia, in addition to persevering with to interact the sport’s established viewers.
The message from the SACF is evident; cricket is open for enterprise, and everyone seems to be welcome.