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‘Cricket Has Finally Come of Age in the Kingdom’

MADINAH, 13 March 2004 — Cricket is in the air — everywhere. Even in the holy city of Madinah where the game’s popularity is on the rise. “Two things have brought me here,” said Arab News Editor in Chief Khaled Al-Maeena. “First and foremost is the love of the Prophet (pbuh) and second is my passion for the game,” he told cricket aficionados at the popular Tabbaq Restaurant here over the weekend. The event was organized to celebrate the recent successes of the Madinah cricket team in Yanbu. The main reason behind them was the efforts of Madinah Cricket Association President Syed Zahid Ali. Along with MCA patron Abdul Samea Noor, he went to great lengths to promote cricket in the holy city. Zahid and Abdul Samea share a passion for the game. Until recently, Zahid Ali was known for his pace bowling while Abdul Samea Noor is referred to as Madinah’s answer to the famous Pakistani spin bowler of yesteryear Abdul Qadir. “I thank Zahid Ali for his efforts in promoting his community and the community of sports,” Al-Maeena, a tireless promoter of the game, said. “He is doing a wonderful job, and we in the Central Cricket Board are proud of his achievement.” The Central Cricket Board has generated great interest in the game through dedicated members and effective management. Speaker after speaker at the event underscored the role that Zainal Alireza, Khaled Al-Maeena and Jeddah Cricket League President Shahid Amin played in making cricket popular in the Kingdom. “To use a cricket analogy, they have put up an excellent score on the board through some hard and balanced batting,” they asserted. “They have given us an excellent score to build the innings on.” Al-Maeena then announced the Arab News Cricket Trophy for Madinah. “Cricket, football, tennis and squash remain the top priority of Arab News.” Obliquely hinting at a few organizations which some claim are trying to sow confusion in the Madinah cricket community, Al-Maeena advised them not to play spoilsport. “This is not cricket,” he said. “Please don’t do this. Don’t try to run down the hard work of the last 30 years. We are in talks with the Youth Welfare Presidency to hold an international championship here in the Kingdom. Now is not the time to create any problems.” Addressing the expatriate community, he said: “You have worked very hard and have contributed immensely to the development of this country. Promotion of cricket in the desert is one way of thanking you for your support of this nation. If you are happy then we are happy,” he said. He said Arab News will be proud to sponsor Madinah’s cricket team when they play in other cities. He also commended Yanbu Cement Company, Fuchs Petroleum and Pakistan International Airlines for backing the game through various sponsorships. Al-Maeena added many Saudis have taken to playing cricket, singling out Maj. Gen. Prince Abdul Aziz ibn Nasir for contributing to the popularity of the game. Zahid Ali said he was proud to be associated with the Central Cricket Board. Full credit should go to the CCB for sending in the first Under-17 team to play in the 10-nation tournament in Pakistan in 2002, he said. He came down harshly on those trying to undermine the MCA and CCB. “We have been in the field for a long time and the results are there for everybody to judge. I advise all cricket loving people not to harm the game.” He called for a closing of the ranks, stating that the benefits of unity far outweigh everything else. “We have been promoting cricket for the last 10-12 years and whatever we have achieved it is because of excellent management. We have organized tournaments in the best possible way and have honored talent in every possible way.” Zahid Ali thanked Saudi Arabian Airlines for sponsoring MCA events. He said soon international cricket will be played in the Kingdom and MCA will play a key role in coordination with the CCB to make it successful. Well-known Madinah personality Dr. Syed Insram Ali said Saudi Arabia has the potential to produce international cricket players. He also urged the various cricketing groups to stand united and strive to win laurels for the country and the holy city. He had a special word of praise for Abdul Jabbar of the Yanbu Cricket League for organizing a good inter-city tournament recently. Iqbal Choudhury, the executive secretary of the Jeddah Cricket League, said cricket had finally come of age in the Kingdom. Abdul Jabbar announced his full support to Zahid Ali in his endeavors and advised everybody to rally behind him. He said cricket and politics go together but politics should not destroy the game. He advised Madinah cricketers to keep their cool and keep their ranks united. Afsar Faheem of JCL also appreciated the efforts of Khaled Al-Maeena and Shahid Amin. “Cricket survives in the Kingdom because of them. Those who are trying to split us will fail.” Aijaz Ahmad said the expat community is extremely grateful to Arab News for not only promoting cricket but giving a new direction to our youth. “Cricket will teach our youth about patience and perseverance.”


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