Dubai: He's done more for cricket than ICC, legendary cricketers hail Shyam Bhatia

The Dubai resident received the Sports Imprint Award for his tireless efforts to help underprivileged cricketers across the world


Rituraj Borkakoty

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Shyam Bhatia (left), Sarfaraz Khan and Sunil Gavaskar. — Supplied photo
Shyam Bhatia (left), Sarfaraz Khan and Sunil Gavaskar. — Supplied photo

Published: Wed 3 Apr 2024, 3:52 PM

Over the years, Shyam Bhatia, the Dubai-based Indian businessman and cricket promoter, has received many accolades for his contributions to the sport.

Last week, the 80-year-old became emotional when he received the Sports Imprint Award from Sheikh Hasher bin Maktoum bin Juma Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Media Incorporated.

Under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, the Sports Imprint Award was launched to recognise individuals who have contributed to the sports sector with their humanitarian initiatives.

Acknowledging Bhatia’s tireless efforts to support underprivileged cricketers at the grassroots level, the Dubai Sports Council nominated him for the prestigious award.

Shyam Bhatia receives the Sports Imprint Award in Dubai. — Supplied photo
Shyam Bhatia receives the Sports Imprint Award in Dubai. — Supplied photo

The owner of a beautiful, one-of-a-kind cricket museum in Dubai, Bhatia has left no stone unturned in his efforts to encourage youngsters.

Among the beneficiaries of his Cricket for Care Foundation was Sarfaraz Khan, the 26-year-old Indian batsman who made his international debut early this year.

Sarfaraz, who rose from a humble background, received kits from Bhatia who also sponsored a cricket trip to the UK for him in his early days as a cricketer.

Even Ukraine’s cricket federation received support from Bhatia who regularly sent them kits before the game was brought to a screeching halt in the east European country due to the Russian conflict.

Now Bhatia hopes the Sports Imprint Award will play a role in drawing Emiratis to cricket.

“You know why this award has made him so happy because they are now talking about cricket. It is really nice to see that cricket has found a place at the government level, it was highlighted very prominently in the Arabic media also,” Bhatia told the Khaleej Times.

“I spoke to Sheikh Hasher, and he showed a great interest in the game. He also said he would visit my museum personally. It was so nice of him because only the expats knew about my museum. Now hopefully, the Emiratis will also know about it and I hope they will show an interest in the game."

Bhatia’s museum is a cricket lovers' paradise where myriad signed memorabilia and stacks of books and magazines greet visitors.

The list of visitors at his museum includes the Who’s Who of cricket — from Viv Richards, Imran Khan, Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar, Steve Waugh, Kumar Sangakkara, and David Gower to the late Shane Warne.

Many of these iconic cricketers congratulated Bhatia on his award.

“I have been flooded with messages from cricketers. Sunil, Zaheer Abbas, Arjuna Ranatunga, Dilip Vengsarkar, Michael Holding, Kiran More, all these people messaged me. Everyone wished me after I shared the news with them,” said Bhatia.

An amateur cricketer in his youth, Bhatia arrived in Dubai for a job on August 8, 1965, before establishing his own company (Alam Steel Traders) in 1978.

Despite his hectic schedule as a successful young businessman, Bhatia always found time to play cricket in his adopted home.

Bhatia also helped establish club cricket in the UAE in the 1970s alongside the legendary Abdul Rahman Bukhatir, the founder of the iconic Sharjah Cricket Stadium.

Former Indian wicketkeeper Kiran More, who first met Bhatia in Sharjah, said the Sports Imprint Award could not have gone to a better person.

“Who doesn’t know Shyam Bhatia in world cricket? I have known Shyam since 1985 when we (the Indian team) toured Sharjah. Since then he has been like a father figure to me, a mentor and always ready to help any cricketer in the world,” the former Indian selector said in an audio message.

“His museum has one of the best collections in world cricket, and he is still doing it. And his passion and love for cricket is unbelievable.”

More said Bhatia, who has also been supporting young cricketers in Japan, has done more for the growth of cricket than the ICC (International Cricket Council).

“His contributions to cricket in the developing-cricket countries are better than ICC. You won’t find a better person than Shyam Bhatia when it comes to promoting cricket,” he said.

“Whatever he does, he does it with a big heart. Very proud of him. I know he is going to keep working hard for the development of cricket.”

Meanwhile, legendary Pakistani spinner Saqlain Mushtaq doffed his hat to Bhatia for always spreading positivity through cricket.

"I have seen his work and passion for cricket. And I really admired the museum he made, it sparked some old memories of mine," Mushtaq wrote in a message.

"The way he supports cricket is beautiful, helping people of every race and age, spreading positivity. He is also active in charity work, promoting cricket in areas where cricket is not so developed. He has shown that this beautiful game belongs to everyone."


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