Cricket News: Saudi Arabian cricket is in the process of a major transformation

Ranked 28th in the latest ICC T20I ranking, Saudi Arabia is not a synonym for the sport of cricket. That could change, however, if the recent push to promote cricket in the region can spark the spark it needs.

It is football that dominates the landscape of the Kingdom of the Middle East, with five FIFA World Cup qualifications in the last seven editions confirming their status as giants of the Asian continent.

While soccer continues to thrive in Saudi Arabia, several high profile sporting events and athletes have made their way to the kingdom in recent years. As part of the broad vision of the Vision2030 master plan, Saudi Arabia recently hosted some of the biggest boxing, wrestling, tennis, golf and auto rally events.

Later this year, the country will host its first Formula 1 Grand Prix with a night race on the Jeddah Street Circuit.

As the amount of investment in various sports continues to gather pace, cricket in Saudi Arabia is on the verge of receiving a boost with a renewed focus on game development. With a sizable foreign population hailing from the Indian subcontinent, cricket has always had tremendous growth potential in the region.

Cricket’s historical roots in Saudi Arabia date back to the 1960s, although the kingdom only became a member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) in 2003. It was further upgraded to associate status in 2016 and became a full member of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) in the same year.

On this basis, the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation (SACF), under its chairman Prince Saud Bin Mishaal Al Saud, tries to introduce a new vision for the expansion of the sport. The SACF was founded in 2020 as the only administrative authority for cricket in Saudi Arabia and has set itself long-term goals to strengthen the social participation of Saudis and expatriates.

To achieve the ultimate goal of building competitive Saudi Arabian national teams, SACF recently launched several initiatives, including the formation of the National Cricket Championship.

Over 7,000 players took part in the current first edition of the national tournament, with the games being played in 11 different venues across the kingdom. The chairman of SACF stated that this program is only the beginning of a major overhaul and that several more initiatives are in the pipeline.

“One of our biggest plans is to have adequate infrastructure for the game because we don’t have it today,” said Prince Saud Bin Mishal Al Saud in a recent interview with Arab News.

“We are planning cricket academies, more grounds, better facilities with entertainment and other services around them to attract Saudi and foreign youth to the game.

“We’re talking to coaches and legends of the game and we’re going to qualify and improve them coaches in domestic cricket and help them nationally.”

To raise awareness of the game in Saudi Arabia, the association has signed several letters of intent with state, semi-public and private entities. Last week the SACF chairman visited the ICC headquarters in Dubai to meet with representatives from the World Federation of Sports. The Chairman also paid a visit to Sharjah Cricket Stadium, where he got a first-hand look at the facilities and floor management.

These meetings in the United Arab Emirates followed the chairman representing the Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Dr. Ausaf Sayeed in Riyadh, received. The discussion centered on how the two countries could work together to expand the sport across Saudi Arabia.

SACF is definitely making the right noise with their vision for cricket in Saudi Arabia, and the future of sport in the kingdom looks very bright.

The UAE and Oman have been the dominant cricket troops in the Gulf so far, but there could be another serious player in the region soon if all goes according to plan for SACF.

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