Exclusive: How UAE academies' foreign tours helping cricket develop in the country

The Desert Cubs are all set to play against South African academies and school teams in Pretoria and Johannesburg



Shyam Bhatia presents a cap to Desert Cubs player Shaun Godino as former UAE player Vijay Mehra, Presley Polonnowita, head coach of Desert Cubs Academy, Vinit Kajaria and Ramesh Ramakrishnan look on. (Supplied photo)
Shyam Bhatia presents a cap to Desert Cubs player Shaun Godino as former UAE player Vijay Mehra, Presley Polonnowita, head coach of Desert Cubs Academy, Vinit Kajaria and Ramesh Ramakrishnan look on. (Supplied photo)
by

Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Tue 19 Jul 2022, 12:09 AM

The Desert Cubs Sports Academy, which has produced several international cricketers for the UAE, is all set to tour South Africa for a series of cricket matches.

UAE batter Esha Oza, who became the fastest player to reach 1,000 runs in T20 Internationals recently, started her cricket journey at the Desert Cubs Sports Academy
UAE batter Esha Oza, who became the fastest player to reach 1,000 runs in T20 Internationals recently, started her cricket journey at the Desert Cubs Sports Academy

Since its inception in 2007, the Desert Cubs teams have made 27 foreign tours, giving their youngsters invaluable experience of playing in different conditions against quality opponents.

“During our 14 years of existence, we have made 27 tours. We started off with Sri Lanka and Malaysia tours, and then we toured all the Test-playing countries like South Africa, India, Zimbabwe, Australia and England. This year we are sending four junior teams and one senior team to South Africa,” Presley Polonnowita, the head coach of Desert Cubs Sports Academy, told the Khaleej Times on Monday.

The 2022 South Africa tour is close to Polonnowita’s heart as this will be his wards’ first foreign exposure since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The challenges we faced due to the Covid-19 pandemic were massive. So coming out of it without losing our spirit, makes me really happy,” said Polonnowita, a former Sri Lankan under 19 teammate of Marvan Atapattu, Muttiah Muralitharan and Sanath Jayasuriya.

Members of the Desert Cubs teams that will play in South Africa
Members of the Desert Cubs teams that will play in South Africa

The Desert Cubs teams will play limited overs matches in 50 overs, 40 overs and 20 overs formats in Pretoria and Johannesburg against South African academies and school teams.

“Our first tour to South Africa was in 2014. They have fantastic academies and school teams. Playing against them will really help our kids in their development as cricketers,” said Polonnowita.

Sri Lankan fast bowling legend Chaminda Vaas also conducted a coaching session at the Desert Cubs Sports Academy this year
Sri Lankan fast bowling legend Chaminda Vaas also conducted a coaching session at the Desert Cubs Sports Academy this year

The former Sri Lankan under 19 star said the UAE cricket academies have played a big role in the growth of the sport in the country.

“Not just the Desert Cubs, the role of the other academies also needs to be acknowledged,” he said.

Shyam Bhatia, Dubai’s well-known cricket promoter, also doffed his hat to local cricket academies.

“All these academies in UAE have been fantastic. The Desert Cubs, G Force Academy, Maxtalent Cricket Academy, they are doing a great job and these foreign tours are giving great exposure to our local talent,” Bhatia said.

Former India batsman Wasim Jaffer presents a trophy to a G Force Academy player during the Dubai-based academy's India tour this year
Former India batsman Wasim Jaffer presents a trophy to a G Force Academy player during the Dubai-based academy's India tour this year

Gopal Jasapara, the head coach of G Force Academy, is now planning a second foreign tour this year.

“We had a very successful India tour earlier this year. Our kids got to play against some of the best junior teams in Mumbai. Now are planning to tour England,” said Jasapara.

Gopal Jasapara with UAE batting sensation Vriitya Aravind
Gopal Jasapara with UAE batting sensation Vriitya Aravind

It was the G Force Academy that produced Vriitya Aravind, the UAE’s young sensation whose batting heroics helped Robin Singh’s team qualify for the 2022 ICC T20 World Cup in Australia.

“The academies are playing a big role in cricket’s growth here in the UAE,” said Jasapara.

Gopal Jasapara with Jash Giyanani who took 10 wickets in 2022 Under 19 World Cup for the UAE
Gopal Jasapara with Jash Giyanani who took 10 wickets in 2022 Under 19 World Cup for the UAE

“But I also hope to see good school teams here. All major cricket-playing countries have a good school cricket culture.”


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