The United Arab Emirates excels in cricket at a high level. Although they hold official ODI and T20i status, they are still working towards achieving full ICC recognition. Nevertheless, their cricket grounds hold significant importance.
The UAE has often taken on hosting responsibilities in various situations. The Indian Premier League, test matches, and one-day internationals have all graced these grounds due to various circumstances necessitating neutral venues.
In this discussion, we’ll explore the circumstances in which the UAE has hosted cricket matches and delve into the finest cricket stadiums in the region.
Sharjah Cricket Stadium
People who aren’t in the UAE might know this cricket ground better than others in the area. The Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium has hosted several IPL games, along with test matches and one-day internationals.
In 2021, it even hosted matches in the T20 World Cup when the tournament had to move from Australia due to travel restrictions.
This stadium opened in 1982, and the first one-day international match was played here two years later, with Pakistan facing Sri Lanka. Pakistan has often played here as a neutral venue, and they also had the first test match at this stadium against the West Indies in 2002.
The stadium can hold 16,000 people, and it’s likely to continue hosting international cricket on neutral ground in the future.
Zayed Cricket Stadium
Located in Abu Dhabi, the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium was also part of the lineup for the 2021 T20 World Cup. It has hosted IPL games and is considered one of the top cricket venues in the UAE.
This stadium was built in 2004 with the aim of becoming a significant cricket venue in the region. It features two large stands behind the straight boundaries and has additional seating on grassy banks, allowing a total capacity of up to 20,000 spectators.
The Sheikh Zayed Stadium hosted its first One Day International match in 2006 when Pakistan played India here. In early 2010, it held its first T20 international, and in the same year, it also hosted its first test match.
While it continues to be a regular venue for the UAE national team, the Sheikh Zayed Stadium is well-prepared for hosting more neutral cricket matches in the future.
Dubai International Cricket Stadium
The Dubai International Cricket Stadium, the third venue for test matches in the UAE, opened its doors in 2009, right in the heart of Dubai Sports City. It’s the largest ground in the region, capable of holding up to 25,000 spectators.
Over the years, it has been a semi-regular host for the IPL, and it was also one of the venues for the 2021 World Cup. International cricket arrived here in April 2009 when Pakistan faced Australia in an ODI. The following month, it hosted its first T20 International, and a year later, Pakistan took on South Africa in the stadium’s inaugural test match.
One of the stadium’s proudest moments came in 2021 when it hosted the T20 World Cup final between Australia and New Zealand.
ICC Academy Ground
While it hasn’t hosted test cricket yet, the ICC Academy Ground, situated in Dubai as part of the expansive Sports City complex, has been a venue for several limited-overs international matches.
Built-in 2009, it witnessed its first international cricket game in 2013 when Canada and Kenya contested an ODI. A year later, it played a role in the 2014 Under 19 World Cup.
Although it remains an option for neutral matches, the ICC Academy facility is primarily used by the United Arab Emirates men’s and women’s cricket teams.
Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium
While the UAE national team doesn’t use this ground anymore, the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi holds great significance in the country’s cricket history. It was established in 1979 as a multi-sport facility.
Although football has been the primary sport here, the stadium was chosen for a series of list A cricket matches involving reserve teams from India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka in 1999.
The stadium, initially designed to hold 15,000 spectators, has expanded over the years. It achieved a record attendance of 68,000 during a football match in 2016. While football takes center stage now, the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium still offers excellent facilities should cricket decide to make a return.
Ajman Oval Cricket Stadium
This stadium hasn’t yet hosted neutral international matches, but it holds significance for the UAE national team. With a smaller capacity of 5,000, it may not accommodate major games, but it stands as the largest cricket facility in Ajman.
Established in 2014, the Ajman International Cricket Stadium hosts smaller matches for the UAE and has also been used by Afghanistan in the past. While the larger stadiums in the region handle official international fixtures, the Ajman Oval plays a role in the UAE’s cricketing journey.
Located in Abu Dhabi, the Tolerance Oval played a crucial role in the early years of UAE cricket development. It served as the regular home ground for the national team before larger stadiums were established.
Formally opened in 2018, the Tolerance Oval quickly began hosting international cricket. In October of the same year, it hosted the first official T20 International with the UAE facing Australia.
While it has hosted more men’s and women’s T20 internationals, the Tolerance Oval has not yet hosted a One Day International. With larger stadiums now available for UAE cricket, it’s likely to take a backseat as a major sporting venue.
Dubai Cricket Council Ground No 2
Two more significant cricket stadiums in the UAE are situated in Dubai and are under the ownership of the Dubai Cricket Council. They are referred to simply as Ground One and Ground Two.
Their journey as important cricket venues began when they were selected to host matches for the 2000 Asian Cricket Council Trophy tournament. They were later chosen as venues for the Champions Trophy qualifying rounds in 2004/05.
While these stadiums have seen reduced use due to the presence of larger venues, they continue to be utilized for smaller cricket matches.
The UAE has invested significantly in sports development within the region. One of their ultimate goals is to become a full member of the ICC and participate in test matches worldwide.
While it’s uncertain if that goal will be achieved, the UAE already has the necessary infrastructure in place. Interestingly, it’s the only non-test-playing nation that has hosted test matches, and it’s unlikely that any other associate member will challenge this position in the future.
In summary, the United Arab Emirates boasts impressive cricket stadiums, and the next step is to build a more competitive national team to complement them.