The Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi does not look anything like a cricket stadium when viewed from miles away -- which you can do because there is not much but sand and low-lying buildings around it. It looks like a spaceship crashed into the desert. There is a curved structure like an upturned boat at the north end of the ground, which houses roughly one-fourth of its 20,000 capacity. The rest of the ground is open to the elements -- namely the punishing desert sun.
But Bangladeshi expatriates proved their Tiger-loving credentials once again yesterday -- the perception was that unlike in Dubai, Afghan fans would dominate in Abu Dhabi, but they were completely outnumbered by Bangladeshis.
For the cricketers there is no respite throughout the day as the location of the big stand in the north means there is no shadow to cool down. At least in Dubai the stadium is cavernous, putting half the ground in shadow by the time of the 20th over. Sheikh Zayed Stadium, with its grass banks, would be more at home in England or New Zealand. The alien spaceship concept seems quite appropriate upon further thought. It's as if the architect thought: “Only unstable people would play cricket in the desert, so here, have all the sun you want.”
NO CLOUD OVERHEAD OR EARTH UNDERFOOT
Eight days into the tour to cover the Asia Cup, coming from the cloud-shaded Bangladesh, the UAE seems an alien world. There has not been a single cloud seen above. It would be an exaggeration to say that there is only sand and not earth underfoot, but let's just say the only non-sand ground seen so far are those artificially installed in sports grounds.
The heat informs every action in Dubai. Taxi drivers have the tendency to start driving before the last passenger has boarded and had a chance to close the door. It has happened so many times that the only explanation could be that, having sat in their air-conditioned comfort so long, once the blast furnace opens, they cannot help but drive off like a dog with a burning stick tied to its tail.
Cricketers start their days and end them late, emerging in the hotel lobby at around 11:00am, if they have afternoon practice -- which they dread for obvious reasons. In that they follow the locals -- if not for the expensive cars plying the road, Dubai in daytime would appear to be a ghost town.