On the Front Foot: The ICC are here and so are we but it still doesn't feel quite right

 

Ten days in and the UAE still feels like a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. And that's only the cricket.

The Test match starting on Tuesday will be the 10th to be played in the country, the third in Dubai. The first was in 2002 in Sharjah, when Pakistan defeated West Indies by 170 runs. There are likely to be two survivors in their side from that match, Taufeeq Umar and Younis Khan.

Dubai was first used as a venue late in 2010 when it became clear that Pakistan had to play somewhere and that this was as good a place as any. Better in so many ways. It almost certainly would not have been possible had the ICC not moved their wares lock, stock and jockstrap to Dubai six years ago. There are fields for cricket here now – and splendid ones at that – where there used to be none. Still, it does not feel quite right.

While England were playing their final warm-up match last week at the ICC Global Cricket Academy Oval One, Pakistan were playing a match between themselves on Oval Two. Judgement must be reserved until after the Test series is finished.

But the chances are that the opening day will be sparsely attended despite the large Pakistani expatriate community here. Most of its members are cricket daft but have to work six days a week. Friday is their day off and it is confidently expected they will pitch up then.

There remains the uncomfortable feeling, however, that cricket is all very well but other sporting matters take precedence. "Where are you from?" asked the pleasant young man at customs on arrival here. "The UK." "No, not that, which team do you support?" as if asking where you are from meant the same thing. Which football team, he meant.

His was Manchester City, owned by local millionaire Sheikh Mansour. And Mansour was named the other day as UAE's sports personality of the year. Yes, for owning a football club thousands of miles away.

Ireland too green for Tests

Without this tour there would have been no ICC Associate and Affiliate XI, the first incarnation of which was beaten by England last week.

It was a jolly wheeze to field such an XI as England's opponents in their first warm-up match (no doubt an expensive one considering they came from as far afield as Ireland, Afghanistan and Namibia). But nobody should make the mistake of assuming it offers, say, Ireland a greater opportunity to be a Test-playing nation.

The ICC had their fingers burned with Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. It might be the ICC Global Cricket Academy but the number of Test nations is staying at 10 and not shifting.

Here today, gong tomorrow?

This column's influence was resoundingly felt when the New Year honours list came out during its break and contained gongs for Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, and Dickie Bird, the former Test umpire.

Both, especially the former, were no doubt deserved, though Dickie's was an elevation. But OTFF had not campaigned on their behalf. No, OTFF had sought overdue recognition for the great former Test wicketkeeper Alan Knott, and if the honours bods felt so minded, as they should, also for John Snow and Tony Greig.

Mentions there were none, despite much more important service to English cricket (not least, in the case of the first two, the Ashes victory Down Under in 1970-71) than some others rewarded lately. They were great cricketers.

As for Greig, he was much more controversial, deserting the England captaincy as he did. But redemption is at hand since he is delivering the Cowdrey Spirit of Cricket Lecture this summer. The next Birthday honours list is awaited.

Strewth, Bruce, best of luck

The umpires for the Test series have been announced. Billy Bowden, Steve Davis and Simon Taufel are durable, experienced hands.

But one of the umpires in the first two Tests will be Australia's Bruce Oxenford, who has stood in only five Tests dating back to 2010.

Oxenford, who played eight Sheffield Shield matches for Queensland, may feel like a grizzled veteran by the time the Abu Dhabi Test is done.

s.brenkley@independent.co.uk

Arts and Entertainment
books
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
people
Voices
Nigel Farage arrives for a hustings event at The Oddfellows Hall in Ramsgate on Tuesday
voicesA defection that shows who has the most to fear from the rise of Ukip
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Life and Style
Brave step: A live collection from Alexander McQueen whose internet show crashed because of high demand
fashionAs the collections start, Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution