#UAE15: Derbyshire impress and so does Abu Dhabi

Cricket Badger’s editor, James Buttler, is currently out in Abu Dhabi and has been watching Derbyshire in their pre-season preparations - here is Blog 2…

In my first blog, written in the UK before travelling to Abu Dhabi, I remembered that, on my last visit to this part of the world in 2009, I’d not been blown away by the country – just by the sandstorms.

Returning six years later has been interesting. For a start the UAE are taking cricket seriously. Their chief executive, David East, has overseen a transformation of the game over here with a Pro League involving the four major Emirates going steadily from strength-to-strength.

The results are tangible as we’ve seen the UAE not only qualify for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, but also play competitive cricket.

A visit to a huge mall on Yas Island, I needed to remedy some camera issues, also showed cricket is slowly becoming part of the local psyche. The televisions on sale bore advertisements for the Cricket World Cup packages available.

Yas Island wasn’t here in 2009 either. I seem to recall this patch of land was a sea of cranes and rubble. It reminds me of one of those computer simulation games where you are given a fictional site and some virtual cash to build it into a city.

In those games you can be practical and create a sound infrastructure, develop some properties and maybe a petrol station so cars can use the roads.

In the game the Sheikh of Abu Dhabi is playing he seems to have gone straight to the luxury portal. This place has so much money at its disposal they can afford the F1 Grand Prix track, a giant mall, a huge waterslide park, a major entertainment arena and whatever it likes.

Chesney Hughes on his way to 112 against Worcestershire on Monday

The pace of change in this country is rapid and stretches to the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, the cricket ground that I describe in blog one as being out of town.

In the six years since I was here the town has almost reached the ground, the view from the media centre at the top of the space age main stand, is now more than a vast expanse of desert. The buildings are coming ever closer and I was told will soon surround the sports ground.

The dust road entrance that the bus struggled up on my previous trips is now a smooth tarmac drive and a couple of the concrete stripped dust and sand outfield satellite grounds are now lush green ovals with more planned.

For the first part of my trip I am following the Derbyshire team who are out here until Sunday. They have so far fought back well to beat Worcestershire in a 50-over match and outclassed a UAE Invitational XI in a 20-over fixture.

This time of year gives a decent guide to a side’s health and, thus far, Derbyshire have impressed. Led well by head coach, Graeme Welch, the coaching staff have had a year to bed in, gauge the state of the club, and implement their culture and ideas. It’s bearing fruit.

Shiv Thakor and Wayne White look good additions to the squad, Chesney Hughes made 112 in the opening game and looks back to his best, and it’s a squad that also contains some very promising youngsters.

The team have responded to Welch and, in Wayne Madsen, have a very capable pair of hands on the captaincy.

They’d be the first to admit there is further work to do, but I’ll stick my neck out and say that promotion to Division One of the County Championship is a more than realistic goals and they will be extremely hard to beat on the one-day arena.

Worcestershire and Derbyshire are already here, Middlesex arrive today (in fact they walked into my hotel as I was typing), Yorkshire tomorrow and Lancashire and Sussex are eagerly packing their suitcases back home.

The next couple of weeks will be extremely interesting. Derbyshire have impressed me a lot, as I say. Who else will across the next fortnight?

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