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Sunday / June 16.
HomemitwocentsAs I See it: The Alien Landscape

As I See it: The Alien Landscape

The recent decision by the Australian Tennis Federation to forfeit the Davis Cup tie in the eastern seaboard city of Chennai due to “security concerns” brings back the spectre of the terror attack against the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, in early March.

John Fitzgerald, the Davis Cup captain, was adamant that it was not entirely safe to be playing tennis in the Tamil Nadu provincial capital, despite the assurances of the local authorities, and the pleas from the Indian team that perhaps the Australians were “overreacting” to the situation.

Indian Premier League

One of the principal reasons given by the Australian team was that if the Indian Premier League (IPL) 20/20 cricket series had to be moved from India to South Africa, then surely it could not be safe for tennis.

The coincidence with the month long Indian election, and the subsequent dispersion of security forces, may have been the ostensible reason for IPL commissioner, Lalit Modi, to shift the circus several thousand kilometers south, at great financial cost. However, Modi’s own political leanings for the major opposition party, may have played a more significant role.

As cricket is seen as a significant part of daily life on the sub-continent, the removal of this popular tournament during the national election, could be seen as the fault of the ruling Congress party; ergo unhappy fans voting for the opposition! With TV audiences around the 400-500 million mark, this can mean a huge number of disgruntled punters. These punters would now have to tune in at uncomfortable times. There would also be no 80,000 strong crowds packing into Eden Gardens for the Kolkata Knight Riders versus Mumbai Indians grudge match, buying merchandise and eating goat biryani by the tonne.

Cricket is not simply a sport or recreation or a bit of fun in that part of the planet – it can be a major social force. This is why the absence of touring cricket teams in Pakistan will have a negative effect on the broad wash of the community.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi

Pakistan has been forced to play their ‘home’ matches in United Arab Emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Ultimately, this is not so bad as there are approximately 300,000 expatriate Pakistanis living and working and sending their wages back to their families from just across the Arabian Gulf. It is only an hour and a half flight from Karachi to Dubai, or three hours by bus from Lahore to Dubai, so they are never far from home.

The new cricket stadium at Dubai Sports City looks fabulous and it is right next to the brand new Formula One track. Abu Dhabi is an hour or so drive down an eight lane freeway across the desert from downtown Dubai Creek. The Sheik Zayed Stadium (it’s like having a cricket ground being named after Don Bradman) is set in the desert, not far from the airport, surrounded by a 50 acre car park of pure sand. The ground is a perfect playing surface, an emerald oasis which requires a camel trip to the freeway a few hundred meters away when you need to get the bus home. Incongruous? Certainly, but the good Sheik has put up USD$25million for the cricket ground. The only available land is a slice of desert – and it is cheap.

Dubai is like an alien landscape, with super tall, needle-like buildings that would not be out of place on a Star Wars planet. To the east, 150 kilometres away, is the more traditional emirate of Abu Dhabi, where oil money has built a new, but more recognisable, civilisation. Dubai does not have any oil fields, but it sure has a lot of golf courses!

Pakistan will play all of their home fixtures in that region until some solution is found to the increasing instability on the sub-continent – and that may not be for many years.

Local Delivery of Eye Care

As you may be aware one of my aims is to be involved in the local delivery of charities such as Optometry Giving Sight who do wonderful work in developing Asian countries.

Optometry Giving Sight in Australia celebrated its fifth anniversary at the SRC in May. Over the last five years hundreds of Australian optometrists, industry and staff have made Optometry Giving Sight their International Charity of Choice. Some highlights include the training of 612 teachers in Zambia and screening of 110,000 school children (which is still in progress). Secondly, the four newly qualified Sri Lankan Vision Technicians that have begun working in three new Vision Centres, with three more Sri Lankans studying to become Optometrists.

Optometrists are being given the opportunity to find out more about Optometry Giving Sight at information nights with the first taking place in Melbourne in May. Additional locations and dates will be announced soon.

Optometry Giving Sight will also be attending Odmafair 09 in July where it will launch the World Sight Day Challenge.