Muscat: NOV 4 – In a big thumbs up to Oman Cricket, the International Cricket Council (ICC) CEO Dave Richardson stated the facilities at the Oman Cricket grounds in Amerat are top-class and Oman has the facilities to host some IPL games down the years. Richardson is in Muscat for the grand opening of the Oman Cricket Academy that also houses the Oman Cricket headquarters, coinciding with Oman’s 48th National Day celebrations. The ICC chief was all praise for the facilities on offer at the Oman Cricket grounds as well as the Oman Cricket Academy and felt a third ground would give more flexibility in hosting major tournaments.
“The indoor nets facility and the outdoor nets, I would say it is competitive with what exists in the rest of the world, even full members as well. You have the clubhouse and the video analysis room, the medical and physiotherapists rooms.
From a facilities point of view, there is nothing that you need, it is all good. It requires a lot of energy and hardwork to keep it at a world-class level and up to standard but it seems like there is incredible enthusiasm and passion for the game here,’’ he added.
IPL games possible
The ICC CEO felt that some games of the world’s richest cricket tournament, the Indian Premier League (IPL) could be played in Oman down the line.
“There is a possibility of holding some IPL matches down the line. With the new turf, outfields and clubhouse in place, Oman now has a facility to put themselves in line to host big-ticket tournaments,’’ Richardson added.
Non-commital on India-Pakistan matches
Richardson was non-commital but hopeful when asked about the possibility of having an India-Pakistan game, cricket’s most high-voltage encounter, in Muscat with the city home to a large South Asian expatriate community.
“It really depends on discussions between the two member boards. If India and Pakistan play, one can obviously expect big crowds and for that I suppose temporary grandstands can be brought in, so that is not a problem,’’ he added.
Happy with Oman’s progress
Richardson was impressed with Oman’s progress as a cricketing nation over the last few years and admitted it took some time for the ICC to take note.
“To be honest, I saw Oman improving but we were never really taking much notice. It is only since these new facilities came to be developed that Oman is now on the world map. They have the potential to be in the top 20 or 25 countries in the world,’’ he stated.
The former South Africa wicket-keeper batsman also heaped praise on Oman Cricket for the work it has done in developing infrastructure on its own.
“I feel cricket really develops in a country when the country is not just relying on the ICC for help but helping itself. In that regard, Oman has to be applauded for doing things for themselves without relying on ICC help. Of course we are there to help whenever we can help but to develop in a big way, it relies on the country helping itself,’’ Richardson revealed.
The ICC chief also dwelt on the recent decision to allow T20I status to all members and its impact on Oman’s future.
“The recent decision to allow T20I status to all member countries will help Oman. It at least allows you to arrange fixtures and make schedules, provides a pathway to young players to consider themselves of playing international cricket, be recognized everywhere on the rankings individually and get recognized as a team. It will be a huge incentive for young players which will go a long way in helping them. Cricket will go from strength to strength from there,’’ Richardson explained.
High-Performance Investment Fund
Richardson said the ICC is planning to introduce a High Performance Investment Fund that will initially target the top eight Associate member nations.
“We are planning on a High Performance Investment Fund that will initially cater to the top eight Associate members and Oman will be looking to be in line for that sort of assistance,’’ he added.
Richardson said the main focus for the ICC was in providing competition opportunities.
“It is all about ICC providing competition opportunities. The opportunities to play each other in an ICC event or a qualifying event bilaterally, in a tri-series or a quadrangular series. This is the kind of opportunity that we want to encourage,’’ he added.
Mass participation in schools
Richardson said the Middle East was one of the targeted areas for ICC where it looked to promote cricket.
“Next year ICC is going to roll out a mass participation programme for young kids, both boys and girls. If we could get this programme into schools, I think it could be the game changer for cricket in the region,” added Richardson.
Richardson, who is a keen golfer, is on his third visit to Oman having come here earlier as a tourist and explored the country’s natural landscape.
“I have come here on a couple of occasions, the first time was 10 years ago. I spent some time in the mountains and went snorkelling. The first thing that attracts you to Oman is the landscape and mountains, no vegetation but beautiful in its own way,’’ Richardson reminisced.