IPL 2020: The allure of the iconic Sharjah Stadium
It was Abdulrahman Bukhatir who put Sharjah on the world map of cricket
Sitting in the Sharjah stadium on Monday was the cricket doyen of the desert Abdulrahman Bukhatir having just been served an accolade by Issa Hilal Al Hazami, Chairman of Sharjah Sports Council as the man who put the emirate on the world map of cricket and still continues to spearhead a rich and enviable legacy.
His CBFS experiment stays unique and no one else has given to cricketers purses of over $6 million. Just like that. Forty years and more giving the game altitude.
Viewing the refurbished stadium on TV and spotting the evergreen Bollywood actress Anju Mahendru took me back to those wonderful days when the Sharjah Cricket Stadium rocked and literally was a delightful pastiche of stars, celebs, ace players and nail biting excitement with a food feast that would have tempted the Romans of old.
As the Chairman said Sharjah is all set to rock again and already is thanks to the IPL and the Women's T20 Challenge which is only a beginning of a second innings.
Memories flood back thanks to this one man. The front rows were like the star cast of a mega- movie. The Kapoors, the Khans, Simi Garewal, Saira and Dilip, writers like Kuldip Nayar, Shobha De, personal friends like Nihal Anwar, the cream of Indian and Pakistan local society, Lata, Asha, Kishore. Mixing with them former and present cricketers, easy to recognise commentators like Ramiz Raja, Dean Jones, L Sivaramakrishnan, Tony Greig, Geoff Boycott. And the legends. Sunny, Sachin, Wasim, of course Imran, Javed, Ricky, Ravi Shastri, Kumar Sangakkara and Gordon Greenidge.
Days before the tournament as the redoubtable man on the spot, Qasim Noorani, and his team got going with the preparations they would discover their circle of friends widening exponentially. Everyone called for passes, they were golden.
On the day of an India-Pakistan match, it was total chaos. Security was beefed up and thousands of the unfortunate ticketless thronged outside the gate. The police had a tough task holding the fans.
And then, of course there were 42 corporate boxes VIPs from the UAE and other GCC countries who turned it into a family meeting place. Everyone in that area knew everyone else and it was an eight-hour hour festivity.
The apres game parties were 'to 'die for' affairs and being invited gave you a social lift up. Everyone mingled and then when the week was over there was that gala night of revelry, fun, entertainment and good vibes.
Either you were there or heard about it the next day. Yes indeed, it was cricket's Camelot.