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UMM AL QUWAIN:

When we talk about cricket in the UAE, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah feature prominently on the list.

But if someone were to say that more cricket is played in Umm Al Quwain (UAQ) than these three emirates, not many would be ready to believe that, except maybe those who are closely associated with the game.

The astonishing fact is this small emirate hosted a whopping 674 matches last season (2012-13), definitely the highest compared to the others.

"As far as my knowledge goes, I don't think any of the other emirates would have hosted so many matches," said UAQ Cricket Association general secretary Mushtaq Ahmad Chowdhary.

"We hosted around 11 tournaments that included a total of 674 matches," he added.

Tournaments are largely of the Twenty20 format and top teams from Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Fujairah ensure they compete without a miss. We have consistently hosted big teams from across the UAE who love coming to UAQ. We also conduct 25-overs-a-side tournaments but since most of the teams love playing the Twenty20 version we try to stick to it. Our tournaments also provide opportunities to youngsters who go on to make it big in the UAE circuit," Mushtaq said.

It was way back in 2002 that UAQ began its cricketing operations with just four teams under its fold. Almost more than a decade now there are more than 100 teams competing all year long.

We never expected to achieve success of this magnitude. But it took a lot of hard work to reach this level. The teams love coming here again and again since we provide the best facilities and take care of them really well. We share a very good relationship with all the participating teams. Even the public who come to watch and enjoy the matches feel at home, especially on Fridays when they want to just relax and watch some good matches," Mushtaq said.

A total of 13 well-maintained grounds (Sabka) are used continuously throughout the year. Mushtaq said plans are under way to get a turf wicket. We have plans to prepare a turf wicket very soon and are working towards it. But our bigger dream is to get a full-fledged stadium in the future and we have the full support of Nasser Mohammad Sultan Al Azeem Al Ali, president of UAQCA.

"Since we have been holding so many tournaments we have made a request to Emirates Cricket Board to recognize us as a separate council and they have asked us to wait.

"We have shared an excellent relationship with all the other councils. I would also thank many top officials including Abdul Rehman Bukhatir and Waleed Bukhatir (both Sharjah Cricket Council officials) for our success," he added.

However, after achieving so much, Mushtaq still felt they can further grow and is optimistic of crossing 674 matches this season itself. We have already hosted nearly 500 matches and we still have many tournaments listed so hopefully it can get bigger and better.

"We also hosted a tournament which had 48 teams in it so we are confident of doing more. We want to create a mark here in the UAE. In the years to come people should remember us and our efforts to promote cricket," said Mushtaq, taking about his goal.

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