Downturn a benefit for cricket lovers

Playing cricket is a passion for this Petrofac team. (SUPPLIED)

The economic slowdown has hit many people hard but for cricket-mad Asians in the Northern Emirates, it has had an unexpected benefit.

The fall in business activity means that their working hours and overtime have been cut – leaving them with more time to play the game they love.

The cricket enthusiasts from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh said that before the downturn they had regular overtime at weekends and long daily working hours.

Now they regularly play friendly cricket matches in open spaces, public parks and playgrounds. Many Asian blue-collar and white-collar workers live in the Northern Emirates, especially Sharjah and Ajman.

"On Friday morning we have 10 teams participating in friendly matches in Ajman," said Santhosh Shelekar, a designer from Mumbai who works for engineering company Petrofac.

"We all live in Sharjah and Ajman and teams from Sharjah come to Ajman to play with our colleagues and friends there.

"Workers are more relaxed now and get more free time to play cricket or engage in other hobbies." The Petrofac team, Mumbai 11, plays matches with Mumbai Indians and other sides from engineering design and construction firm CB and I.

Shelekar said there were many interdepartmental cricket teams in his company and they often conducted friendly matches.

"This Friday morning four teams from Petrofac are playing in Ajman. We regard it as exercise that helps us to relax after working five days." Employees of other companies also flock to cricket hotspots such as Qasab in Sharjah and informal playing fields in Ajman and Umm Al Quwain.

Some Sharjah teams travel to Umm Al Quwain to play.

Sam Thomas, Sales Manager of an Italian company at the Jebel Ali Free Zone, is the organiser of Subcon Club Sharjah, a group made up of white-collar workers from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

He said club members and other players now had more time for cricket. "Before, I never saw people playing cricket in the evening on working days," he added.

"We formed the club two years ago and both the number of players and the time they spend playing have increased. Earlier some members used to skip matches due to their hectic work schedules. Now our members are regulars at matches and more people are playing in public parks."

The club's two teams, Subcon Blue and Red, take part in tournaments.

"We have to pay Dh200 per match at regular stadiums. Many people use public parks and open spaces in Ajman and Umm Al Quwain where they don't need to pay any money. Playing cricket is a passion, it's good exercise and provides a chance for a friendly gathering."

Another player said: "We play in public parks, on open ground near shopping malls and in some desert areas. To avoid trouble with local residents, we use softballs instead of hard cricket balls. If a softball hits someone they will not be hurt, but due to public safety concerns people are discouraged from playing in residential areas."

 

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