Almost 35 per cent of the UAE’s population is Indian, so it’s little surprise that the Indian Premier League (IPL) is so popular here in Dubai. And it’s not only the Indian community who are going cricket crazy. Anyone with an interest in the sport can easily get their cricket fix in Dubai, whether it’s watching IPL games on TV (Karama cafés were packed for the IPL’s first set of games last week), or playing it for themselves.
The season culminates in playoffs, which start May 24, with the IPL Final taking place on May 28.
Who to watch
To get the latest on the IPL, Time Out spoke to Dehli-based cricket blogger Will Davies to find out the top players making their mark this year.
Party boy Yuvraj was voted Man of the World Cup – he got four man-of-the-match awards during India’s successful campaign, but he was out for a golden duck against Pakistan. Nonetheless, the 29-year-old was partnering MS Dhoni at the end of the World Cup final when he hit the ball for six. It’ll be interesting to see how he fares with new franchise Kochi Tuskers Kerala.
Last year Gautam played for Delhi Daredevil, but has since been snapped up by the Kolkata Knight Riders franchise for US$2.4 million (Dhs8.8 million) – a record fee in the IPL. Will he live up to his sizeable price tag? Time will tell, but it’s worth keeping an eye on him this season to see how he fares.
Dhoni is already considered India’s greatest ever captain (some feat considering the country’s rich cricket tradition). The story of Dhoni’s rise to the pinnacle of international and domestic cricket is a rags-to-riches tale: he grew up in one of the poorer parts of the country and is now a national hero.
After missing last season’s IPL, big-hitting Watson is back with the Rajasthani Royals. He’s one of the few Australians who came out of the 2011 World Cup with his reputation intact – he hit the biggest six of the tournament, sending the ball 104m against Canada. He was also the only Aussie to make it into the ICC World Cup team. Shane’s not the only Aussie or the only Shane to be playing for the Royals this season. Remember Shane Warne? Thought so.
This West Indies international, who will be stepping up to the crease for Mumbai Indians, can give the ball a mighty thwack. However, Pollard can lack consistency and is temperamental. He’s never proved a success in one-day cricket and he’s far from a test player, but this ensures he’s made for Twenty20 cricket.
Where to watch
Rather than screening footage of uncomfortable muscle aches and strains, cricket channel CricOne features all the live IPL games. Those not signed up to the network can catch the action at various spots around town. Antipodean favourite, Nezesaussi Grill at Al Manzil Hotel (04 428 5888) will be showing all the matches live, as will Aussie Legends in Rydges Plaza (04 398 2222). Grand Hyatt Indian restaurant iZ (04 317 2222) is going one better by offering special IPL food and drinks deals until the quarter finals (at which point, we hope, deals will be bigger and better). For a less high-end, more atmospheric cricket-viewing experience, try The Cricketer in Ramada Deira (04 266 2666) – a favourite with Dubai-based Indian cricket fans.
Where to play
ICC Cricket Academy
This state-of-the-art centre offers coaching for kids and adults and features practice wickets with different soil and grass to recreate the conditions of wickets around the world. Nets sessions are expensive, though – Dhs350 for one hour.
Dubai Sports City, www.dubaisportscity.ae (04 448 1355).
Night cricket league
Slog it out in this eight-a-side twilight league. Matches are played every Monday and Wednesday at 7pm at Dubai Modern High School in Nad Al Sheba. Entry fees are Dhs600 per player for the season.
www.dubai.duplays.com/sport/cricket (055 224 1087)
As well as hosting exhibition games, The Sevens also allows causal cricketers to use the nets. Grass wickets hire is Dhs160 an hour off-peak, or Dhs300 at peak times.
www.thesevens.ae (04 809 6605)
This week’s fixtures
Thu 21 Kings XI Punjab v Rajasthan Royals 5.30pm
Fri 22 Kolkata Knight Riders v Royal Challengers 1.30pm; Mumbai Indians v Chennai Super Kings 5.30pm
Sat 23 Delhi DareDevils v Kings XI Punjab 5.30pm
Sun 24 Deccan Chargers v Mumbai Indians 1.30pm; Rajasthan Royals v Kochi Tuskers Kerala 5.30pm
Mon 25 Chennai Super Kings v Pune Warriors 5.30pm
Tue 26 Delhi DareDevils v Royal Challengers Bangalore 5.30pm
Wed 27 Pune Warriors v Chennai Super Kings 1.30pm; Kochi Tuskers Kerala vs Deccan Chargers 5.30pm
For a complete schedule, see www.iplcricketlive.com