Sharjah misses India

Sharjah April 15. Sharjah's cricket organisers `miss' the Indian team, which has not been participating in tournaments played here for the last three years, and they have invited India to take part in a tri-nation series featuring New Zealand and West Indies in Morocco in August.

Asserting that Sharjah was the `most regular venue' in the world, chairman of Cricketers Benevolent Fund Series (CBFS), the organisers of tournaments in Sharjah, Abdulrahman Bukhatir, said the venue had suffered because of `TV politics' and appealed to India to `reconsider' its stand.

``We miss India, not only because of the money (that its participation generates for the organisers) but also because India brings huge excitement into the tournaments. India has been involved in some of the best games played here,'' Bukhatir said in an interaction with Indian journalists.

He said it was unfortunate that India had included Sharjah among non-regular venues.

``We have staged more one-day games than any other venue in the world. There cannot be any more regular venue. In fact, we have continued to host tournaments even in the absence of India whereas venues like Singapore and Toronto have stopped doing so.''

He said he had heard that one of the reasons for India boycotting Sharjah was that it did not want to play against Pakistan.

``But Pakistan is not here in every tournament. India can certainly participate in tournaments in which Pakistan is not playing. We have invited India to play in a triangular series against New Zealand and West Indies in Tangiers in Morocco in August.''

Bukhatir said he had met Indian Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha in Delhi two months ago and tried to clear certain misconceptions including the idea that Sharjah was the hub of match-fixing activities.

``There was a time when matches were being fixed all around the world. I cannot say whether any match was fixed in Sharjah or not. But it was certainly not happening in Sharjah alone. And the venue or the organisers had nothing to do with it. Now even the anti-corruption unit of International Cricket Council has said there is nothing wrong with this venue,'' he said.

Bukhatir was also at pains to explain that Sharjah had no links with the underworld dons. ``The cricket here had become so popular that all sorts of people were coming to watch the matches. Dawood Ibrahim and his colourful gang also started coming. But we did not have any association with them. And none of these persons are here any more.'' Bukhatir said his primary objective has been to promote cricket in the region and CBFS was constructing two world-class stadiums in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. ``Our tournament in Morocco is also directed towards this objective. We would certainly like India to come and play the tri-series against West Indies and New Zealand there. It is an excellent location,'' he said.

Pakistan coach Javed Miandad said India's boycott of Sharjah was an `unfortunate' decision because it was not only harming the cause of cricket but also denying former cricketers a chance to earn some money.

``CBFS is doing a great job by naming former cricketers as beneficiaries of the tournaments in Sharjah. Cricketers in the past did not earn much money and their life is made if they are made the beneficiaries. The players' benefit is neglected by India's decision not to play in Sharjah,'' Miandad said.

``I have heard that the Indians are concerned about security in Sharjah. This is a ridiculous argument. Sharjah is as safe a venue as any in this world,'' he said. — PTI

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