#UAE15: BLOG It’s time to join the English counties in Abu Dhabi

As six English counties and the MCC prepare to fine tune their pre-season preparations in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Cricket Badger is taking you with us to capture the news, views and experiences out there…

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Freedom2play.co.nz presents Honey Badger cricket - sponsors of cricketbadger.com’s pre-season coverage of the English counties in UAE

If you are reading this while in England you already know. If overseas, Google today’s weather in the UK. Either way, you will feel, or will see, it’s pretty damn cold, grey, with a constant threat of rain. It snowed last week. It’s certainly not cricket weather.

That is why six English counties, a combined MCCU university side, the MCC and their young cricketers will be heading for the warmer climes of the United Arab Emirates for much of March. The sunshine, team bonding opportunities and outdoor practice and matches the perfect preparation for the cricket season ahead.

The current Champion County, Yorkshire, arrive in Abu Dhabi on 14 March. Worcestershire and Derbyshire arrive first and for various durations the UAE will also welcome Lancashire, Middlesex and Sussex.

It’s a time when still rusty games cane be honed and when coaches will be seeking decisive comments to scribble in the unanswered column of their summer plans.

This will be my seventh venture to foreign shores to cover the preparations of English counties during the final stages of their pre-seasons. While the games ultimately have no bearing on who will lift England’s domestic prizes, I’ve always found this period illuminating. It’s a window of opportunity to gauge the collective health of sides and individuals.

Just on a human level, watching from a respectable distance, form can be judged, team harmony judged and chances for a good season measured.

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The Dubai Cricket Ground will host the T20 tournament on 20 March

Everyone starts the new season on zero runs and wickets. The sky is the limit. A century or a five wicket haul in that all important opening fixture can spark a career and momentum for a stellar summer gained. A poor start and even the established can be looking over their shoulders.

I’ve been to the UAE twice before, in the Marches of 2008 and 2009. To be completely honest, back then I wasn’t sold. In comparison to other countries, Barbados and South Africa for example, it is not a cricket country. Well it wasn’t back then.

The Sheikh Zayed Stadium (main photo) is a modern £30 million-plus arena on the outskirts of the city. It’s a terrific venue for those that know it exists. I jumped into a taxi one day in 2009 and asked to be taken to the cricket ground. I ended up having to give the driver instructions as, despite driving passed it on the highway every day, he had no idea what the giant structure was for.

Travelling back six years after my last UAE foray I am interested to find if anything has changed. The UAE national side is currently playing in the ICC Cricket World Cup and, although as an affiliate nation qualifier little is expected, public levels of interest should have been aroused.

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Abu Dhabi

When I’m out there I’ll be serving a number of masters - a trip doesn’t pay for itself. As the Editor of Cricket Badger you will hopefully read and enjoy my blogs and pieces from the UAE.

A number of other cricket publications will be taking my words and video. I begin covering Derbyshire for the Derby Telegraph, following the fortunes of Graeme Welch’s men. Then there’s the Emirates Airline T20 tournament on 20 March in Dubai which involves Yorkshire, Lancashire, Sussex and the MCC. And finally, there’s the traditional Champion County curtain raiser for the season between Yorkshire and MCC between 22 and 25 March.

My thanks to Sport Arabia for organising my journey. The company is an expert in providing cricket travel to the UAE and will be ferrying the English county supporters between the grounds, hotels and tourist attractions.

I will update this blog regularly throughout. Don’t expect wall-to-wall match reports and stats. This blog is my opinion, comment, news and views as I take you with me.

Stay tuned!

James Buttler
Editor - Cricket Badger

James Buttler

James has been working as a journalist and broadcaster in cricket since 2006 and was an avid fan for many years before that.
As the editor of World Cricket Badger he is intent on building the website to give quality coverage of the domestic game around the world.
He is also the presenter of the Cricket Badger Radio Show on Radio Yorkshire every Tuesday evening between 7-9pm UK time.
James was the full-time Media Manager at Yorkshire County Cricket Club between 2007 and 2010.
James is a published author, a writer/video contributor to many cricket publications and a complete cricket badger!

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