This year's Asia Cup is likely to have an extra factor other than the teams duking it out on the pitches of the Dubai International Stadium and the Sheikh Zayed International Stadium.
Players returning from practice during the daytime bear a weary look because of the extreme heat. The mercury is expected to reach 43 degrees Celsius on the opening day of the tournament when Bangladesh take on Sri Lanka.
“I think the heat will be a major factor,” said Bangladesh opener Tamim Iqbal at the team hotel yesterday. “It is likely to turn into a mental game. When you play in high temperatures, the batsman who has played 60-70 balls will feel tired and is prone to a mistake. If he can take a good decision in that weak moment -- in those five, ten seconds -- it will become his advantage. The battle will be within his mind.
“We have to be mentally strong to handle this heat. Normally we don't play cricket in this weather; we do play in the heat in Bangladesh but this is something different. We hope to be a mentally stronger team.”
With matches scheduled to start at 3:30pm local time, the heat will certainly come to bear on the team fielding first, which may make the toss a more important factor than it already is.
“It depends on the type of surface we are playing on,” Tamim said when asked about the toss. “If it is a good batting wicket, we would like to bat first. I can only say after I see the wicket.”
Tamim has played here in the Pakistan Super League -- as have Mahmudullah Riyad, Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hasan and Mustafizur Rahman -- but said that they were a little different as T20 is a shorter format and the tournaments are held at a kinder time of the year.
While the UAE has been host to ODI cricket since the mid-1980s, almost all the matches have taken place in the relatively cooler period between October and April, with some matches extending to May. However, there have been only four ODIs in more than 30 years here that have been held in the oppressive heat of August and September, when Australia played Afghanistan in a one-off match and Pakistan in a three-match series in 2012.
It seems like while the world relishes the next fortnight of cricket from the desert, the cricketers will have an altogether different experience.