‘Adrenaline rush’: How street cricket has evolved in Qatar

by | Aug 5, 2022 | World

Doha, Qatar – It was a Friday afternoon at Al-Thumama ground just outside Qatar’s capital Doha.About two hours before sunset, the heat was bearable. The ground features sand and sharp rocks. Windy conditions, coupled with heat and humidity, made standing difficult, let alone playing cricket.
Every weekend, some 20,000 South Asian men working in Qatar leave their air-conditioned rooms in pursuit of happiness that lasts about five hours.
Because of the conditions on that particular day, the crowd was one-fifth of what would be seen normally and only four of the 20-plus cricket pitches were occupied. On one of them, a practice match between members of Hitters Club, the biggest in Qatar’s tennis ball cricket, was taking place.
Dr Saju Thomas, an emergency physician with Hamad Medical Corporation, was one of them. In 2011, he saw a cricket match taking place on a ground near the hospital he worked at.
Next weekend, he was among the players.
A cement pitch on a dusty field in Qatar [Courtesy Siraj el-Leil]
Over the years, Qatar’s street cricket has evolved, with organised leagues, uniforms, statistics-keeping and prize money.
Prior to the COVID pandemic, millions of Qatari riyals were spent each season.
In April 2018, Hanan Premier League Season 3 gave out a total of 125,000 riyals ($34,000) prize money, with former Indian national player Yusuf Pathan also attending a match.
According to MK Riyaj, who played a role in formalising the game in the country, Qatar has about 2,000 cricket clubs.
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