England cricketers, Alastair Cook and Graeme Swann, camped in the UAE ahead of England’s forthcoming Test, One Day International (ODI) and Twenty20 series against Pakistan. Cook and Swann swapped practice nets for the Arabian Gulf, as they jumped off the back of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing yacht, Azzam – the emirate’s official entry in the Volvo Ocean Race 2011/2012.
The pair flew into the event’s Destination Village on the UAE capital’s Corniche breakwater and were introduced to the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing crew, skippered by Briton Ian Walker, a double Olympic medallist.
Cook and Swann climbed on board Azzam to complete a short, stadium-style sprint course which officially started the event’s third leg from Abu Dhabi to Sanya, China. The duo stepped into heavy weather, waterproof safety gear and jumped from Azzam’s stern into the warm Arabian Gulf.
“What an experience that was,” said Cook, who, as well as being England’s opening Test batsman and ODI captain, was awarded an MBE in the 2011 Honours List. “It was great to get out on the water and see the Abu Dhabi crew in action. We saw the scope and magnitude of the Destination Village and event when we flew in, but it was still a very impressive sight seeing so many spectator boats on the water – it’s clear the race has gone down a storm in Abu Dhabi. Hopefully our forthcoming matches against Pakistan will be equally as popular”.
Cook’s team-mate, Swann, the England Cricket Board’s Cricketer of the Year in 2010, was equally impressed. “Ian told us that Azzam translated as determination in Arabic, which seems a perfectly apt name having seen the unbelievable camaraderie and team-work the crew put in during our short stint onboard,” said Swann, who became the first English spinner to take 50 wickets in a calendar year in 2009.
England play Pakistan in a series of Test, ODIs and Twenty20 matches throughout January and February, the first of which is a five-day Test in Dubai that starts on Tuesday 17 January. The second of three Tests will unfold at Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium from Wednesday 25 to Sunday 29 January – the same weekend as the emirate’s hosts its annual PGA European Tour event, the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.