• Monday, Dec 06, 2021
  • Last Update : 01:15 am

Tour Diary: A World Cup in the middle of a desert

  • Published at 10:34 pm October 15th, 2021
Muscat
A gate is adorned with a banner of the T20 World Cup 2021 in Oman's capital Muscat Dhaka Tribune

Despite less enthusiasm and a lack of T20 World Cup fever, Oman Cricket is taking its last minute preparations to stage the biggest cricket event in its history

There is no T20 World Cup fever in Muscat whatsoever.

Although co-hosts Oman are playing in the qualifying round, it looks like people don’t even know there is a World Cup knocking at the door. 

No banners or posters or promotions were seen in Oman’s beautiful capital Muscat.

Around 20 Bangladeshi journalists flew to Muscat in the early hours of Friday and even airport officials looked surprised that this many journalists came to their country to cover a mega sports event.

Omani people usually don’t follow cricket and have no interest in the game.

Most of the players in the Oman national team are of Asian origin.

As for other sports, Oman have their football team who are currently ranked 78th in Fifa ranking and football have a lot of following, and cricket is still in its rookie stage.

A local resident here informed that there are quite a few football stadiums in Oman but for cricket there is only one ground, Al Amerat Cricket Ground, which was constructed in 2012.

The stadium is new  and construction work is still going on. 

While going to the stadium on a taxi, the driver informed that Omani people actually don’t have interest for cricket.

The taxi driver, an Indian who has been residing here for 35 years, doesn't even know the exact pathway to go to the stadium although the venue is situated 15km south-east of Muscat, and just a 15-20 minute drive from the main city.

When we reached Al Amerat stadium, the first impression was, it is "in the middle of the desert".

Hills surround every corner of the stadium’s backdrop.

It was like a huge landscape and in the middle of it, there is a stadium, which is the main spot of Oman cricket.

There was a gateway decorated as "ICC World Cup 2021" in Gate 1 of the stadium, and it was the first time I witnessed a large banner related to the mega event.

Although the T20 World Cup is just a day away, the security guard didn't really expect journalists from Bangladesh, a participating team, to come and cover the tournament.

Despite informing him quite a few times that all the Bangladeshi journalists have come to collect the accreditation card for the tournament and ICC gave an official mail to all the accredited journalists to collect the card from Al Amerat Stadium, he was reluctant to let anyone enter the stadium premise.

So for almost half an hour under the scorching sun in Muscat, all the journalists wondered why the ground official was unmindful of the fact that journalists from participating teams would come and join the T20 party.

Finally an ICC official came to the gate to rescue the journalists.

While entering the stadium, a team bus just passed and we realized that it was the one with England players and officials.

England staged their T20 World Cup preparation camp in Oman from October 5 and Friday was their last practice.

Then, it felt like, although it looks like it’s in the middle of a desert, this is the World Cup and it is actually happening here in Muscat.

However, local Bangladeshi people living in Muscat have a lot of enthusiasm for the Bangladesh national team.

Almost a million Bangladeshi people live in Oman and most of them have interest in cricket and want to support their favorite team by coming to the stadium.

Due to the Covid situation, the ICC had no other option but to restrict the majority of the crowd in the stadium.

Only 3,000 spectators can enter the Al Amerat Cricket stadium during the qualifiers.

That was a source of huge disappointment for the Bangladeshi fans living here as they are getting very little chance to buy the tickets for the match and support the Tigers by going and cheering for the team on the field.

But the local Bangladeshi community is excited that the Tigers are in the town.

It was known that these communities are doing charity work for a noble cause in Cyclone Shaheen affected areas.

This is probably the biggest cyclone in Oman in a while as they faced similar kind of calamity back in 2006.

Cyclone Shaheen caught them off guard this time and it created havoc among adjacent areas of Muscat.

It came to be known that at least six Bangladeshis have died in the cyclone while quite a few are missing,

It was learnt that the Bengali community is helping to clean the mosque in the flood affected area and also raised funds for donation. 

So despite less enthusiasm and a lack of T20 World Cup fever, Oman Cricket is taking its last minute preparations to stage the biggest cricket event in its history.

And for Team Bangladesh, they need to conquer the 22 yards in their three qualifying games in the "middle of the desert" of this Gulf shores to advance to the super 12 stage.

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