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Stars of future identified

Former Pakistani cricketer Mudassar reflects on U-15 and U-19s tour of Kenya

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Published: Thu 25 Jul 2013, 3:24 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 9:00 AM

ICC Academy Head Coach Mudassar Nazar said he believes “five or six” of his junior players have the potential to go on and play representative cricket for the UAE after watching them on a ground-breaking tour of Kenya, a Press release stated.

ICC Academy’s Faizal Hussain seen batting during the Kenya tour. — Supplied photo

Former Pakistan all-rounder Mudassar led two squads made up of the ICC Academy’s under-15 and under-19 players to Nairobi where they came up against national age-group sides of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania as well as local representative teams.

And although he was reluctant to single out players for special praise, Mudassar said he believed some of the youngsters showed signs of being able to move up to the next level.

“There are certainly five or six players who will one day finish up playing for the UAE under-19 team,” he said.

“These players had a good tour of Kenya and they have also been performing consistently in local matches (in the UAE) too.”

The trip was ground-breaking because not only was it the ICC Academy’s first overseas tour, it was also the first time it had been invited to play against national teams.

That meant a significant jump up in standard and, with the players also having to get used to used to conditions different from those they usually encounter in Dubai, it meant wins were at a premium.

To add to the challenges faced by the ICC Academy squads, they found themselves at a significant disadvantage in terms of age too, with the average age of the under-15 squad at 13 – with one boy aged 10 – while no player in the under-19 squad was older than 17.

But as Mudassar pointed out, results were a secondary consideration compared to the experience the players gained by taking part in the trip.

“This tour was arranged to give our ICC Academy boys the flavour of international cricket and was designed more for their development rather than winning and losing,” he said.

“We experienced a very good standard of cricket and our under-19s were playing against national teams that had just come out of ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup qualifiers.

“Our under-19 squad pleasantly surprised me as the boys competed in every game. Our under-15 boys were a little intimidated by the size of the opposition as most of them were under-13 and we were playing the under-15 boys.

“It certainly was an eye opener for our boys who had in the past only played against local academies and visiting school teams from the United Kingdom and India.

“But our players really enjoyed the challenge of not only playing against top-class players but also the different conditions they encountered.

“At the start of the trip I heard a lot of them saying ‘Sir, this is not like the ICC Academy.’ I think that said it all for me as that was our intention, to give them a taste of cricket away from what they normally play.

“I was happy to note that as the tour went on I did not hear that comment any more as they realised they will have to play well in all kinds of conditions if they are to become better players.”

The under-15 squad came close to beating both the Kenya and Uganda under-15 sides before eventually winning against Nakura thanks to a superb bowling and fielding display.

The under-19s beat Tanzania and then went on to win against the Kenya under-19 side with Jay Shah taking five wickets and Writick Das top-scoring with 49 in his last match for the ICC Academy before relocating to Canada.

The tour was Mudassar’s brainchild and he said it was something he anticipates repeating in the future.

“There is no doubt that the players benefitted hugely from the experience of stepping out of their comfort zones and playing against different opposition in different conditions and so it was a great success.

“We are looking at trips not only back to Kenya but also to the United Kingdom and India,” he added.

ICC Academy General Manager David Jenkins said: “The fact the youngsters who come to train with us get opportunities like this – as well as being coached on a regular basis by an outstanding international player and coach like Mudassar – emphasises just what we can offer at the ICC Academy.

“With our world-class, state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor facilities, it is a clear illustration that if young players in the UAE want to get involved in cricket then the ICC Academy is the only place to be.

“The tour was a fantastic idea, especially as it gave the boys the chance to play outdoors at a time when the weather in the UAE makes that an impossibility.

“Being invited to play in Kenya was a huge honour and a real feather in the cap for the ICC Academy and we are already looking at confirming more tours for our junior teams in the future.”

The two squads played at three top venues in Nairobi – Nairobi Club,
Jaffery Sports Club and the Sir Ali Muslim Club – over a ten-day period having spent a month preparing for the tour with regular training sessions at the ICC Academy under the guidance of Mudassar and his team of expert coaches.

Coaching at the ICC Academy starts with Cricket Cubs for children from walking age up to five-and-a-half years old and it goes all the way up to the under-18 Warriors. The new coaching term is set to begin in the second week in September.

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