Sportstar archives: Abdul Rehman Bukhatir, the man behind cricket in Sharjah

Abdul Rehman Bukhatir stresses on the quality of cricket in Sharjah, India-Pakistan matches and The Cricketers Benefit Fund Series.

Abdul Rehman Bukhatir, the brain behind the CBFS in Sharjah, feels the stadium is known for its competitive ODI pitch.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Responding to a set of pertinent questions faxed to him from Madras by Sportstar, Abdul Rehman Bukhatir, the brain behind the The Cricketers Benefit Fund Series (CBFS) in Sharjah, talks about a variety of issues pertaining to international cricket in the Sheikhdom.

Do you believe you will be able to convince the Board of Control for Cricket in India to send its team to Sharjah for the tournament in 1994?

From press reports and from what we ourselves have heard, we would like to believe that the Board is considering sending the Indian team to the Australasia Cup in 1994.

Do you believe the conditions in Sharjah, since India were there last in 1991, have changed?

We do not quite see the need to change the conditions in Sharjah as all the teams that have played here have expressed complete satisfaction.

What were the points the BCCI held against the conduct of cricket in Sharjah and what have been the assurances from you with regard to correcting the alleged imbalances?

The main grievance of the BCCI was that they felt certain rules and conditions of the game were flouted in the last tournament in which India participated. To remove such apprehensions and doubts we have formed a technical committee which will oversee the conduct of the game, frame rules and conditions, appoint umpires etc. The committee is composed of four distinguished personalities, namely, Sunil Gavaskar, Imran Khan, Geoff Boycott and Ashraful Haq. This committee made its debut in the Pepsi Champions Trophy held in October-November.

Was it true that an anti-Indian bias led to India pulling out of the commitment to CBFS? If so, have the conditions changed subsequently for you to press for India's return to Sharjah?

There may have been some misgivings about an anti-Indian bias which I believe were totally unfounded. Neutrality in all respects has been our paramount aim. The games have always been supervised by neutral umpires and to further instil confidence we have formed this technical committee. I see no need for any further action.

Asif Iqbal and Abdul Rehman Bukhatir with Sheikh Qasimi (middle) at Sharjah Cricket Ground.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES


Do you see a future for international cricket in Sharjah, if for any reason India or Pakistan keep refusing CBFS?

First of all, we do not see any reason why they should keep refusing to come, as the CBFS was established with the prime objective of honouring cricketers mainly from the subcontinent. The majority of spectators at the stadium are from the sub-continent and there is no denying the fact that continuity of international cricket in Sharjah could be jeopardised only if both the teams do not participate. We are quite confident that this would not happen.

In what way would you be able to sustain international cricket in Sharjah in the possible absence of one of the two sub-continent teams from your tournaments?

I think the answer to the previous question covers this also. Let us not dwell on scenarios we are trying to ensure will never occur.

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Have the infrastructure and facilities been maintained at the standards reached in the past when all Test-playing nations were happy to have the Sharjah Stadium as a stop on their itinerary?

The infrastructure and facilities have not only been maintained but we continue to improve them.

How do you view the other ventures, whereby Indian and Pakistani XI's are brought to the Gulf by private promoters to play exhibition matches?

We certainly disapprove of these masala matches, not because they affect us in any way, but because of the farcical and ludicrous manner and conditions in which they are played in a football stadium. I think both the boards have now realised that these tamasha matches are bringing the game into disrepute and are discouraging players from participating. Cricket is not a carnival and to trivialise it harms the players in the long run.

Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly celebrate India's victory over Zimbabwe at the Coca Cola Cup in Sharjah in 1998.   -  FILE PHOTO/ N. SRIDHARAN


Is the ICC doing enough to help Sharjah as a lucrative offshore cricket centre where teams can play international tournaments even as individual players get benefit purses?

I think the ICC has given Sharjah a tangible boost by granting official status to the international matches played here.

What is your response to the accusation that Sharjah cricket is more of a social outing for the glitterati of Bombay and Pakistani filmdom rather than serious cricket for international teams?

How can anyone say that serious international cricket is not played at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium? Our pitches are considered, by the players as well as by all experts, as one of the best in the world for one-day cricket. Some of the finest games and individual performances have been recorded here. A very serious and competitive game is played on the field and the glitterati glitters off the field without one affecting the other.

How do you respond to accusations that profits from Sharjah cricket are not being ploughed back for the development of cricket and that they reach people in the CBFS?

What profits? We are happy to have given benefit purses of over $2 million to deserving cricketers, whether we made a profit or not. The boards have been paid handsome amounts as participation fees and the cost of travel, boarding and lodging of the teams have been borne by us. Neither I nor anyone else in CBFS has profited from Sharjah cricket, considering the investment and upkeep of the ground and the stadium and the organisational costs of each event. Tell me one other comparable organisation.

Do you believe Sharjah will regain its place as the pioneering offshore centre for cricket with its particular Asian flavour?

I believe we have never lost our place as the pioneering offshore centre for cricket. Nobody can take that away from us. We are far too dedicated to the game to lose that position.


(This interview was first published in Sportstar magazine on November 27, 1993)

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