Young Emiratis need to play red ball cricket to make the sport popular in the UAE

Emiratis have so much potential and they can certainly make the country proud at the international level, says the former cricket captain of the UAE

By Mohammad Tauqir

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Published: Thu 2 Dec 2021, 11:18 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Dec 2021, 11:19 PM

I am an exception to the trend. During my formative years, I used to watch plenty of cricket that was played at the Sharjah stadium in the 1980s.

Cricket enthused me immensely and I took to the game in earnest. I would watch various teams — India, Pakistan and West Indies — which were full of talented cricketers. These cricketers, such as Sachin Tendulkar, Javed Miandad and Brian Lara, Steve and Mark Waugh further, fuelled my interest.

This is how I started playing the game, which was not all that popular among Emiratis, whose passion runs high for football.

I started playing cricket when I was studying at a private school in Sharjah. In 1994, a junior team from Sharjah toured the United Kingdom for a month. I, too, joined them and played lots of cricket during that one month in the UK.

I learnt a lot about the finer points of the game during the tour that was organised by Syed Ali Anwar Jafri, who set up AJ Sports, the only store in the world that sold cricket-only gear in 1987. Jafri, who is of Pakistani origin and hails from Karachi, was an aspiring cricketer who became a successful businessman. His love for the game, however, remained intact.

Abdulrazak Kazim, an Emirati, was the manager of the tour. He was helpful and supportive in developing my game. I could evolve as a cricketer at the international level. I was a handy lower order batsman and a useful off spinner and we had a good outing in the 2015 ICC World Cup, where I had captained the side, even though we didn’t win a single game.

Though I didn’t get to play in the 1996 ICC World Cup, I was a part of the squad, which was coached by Indian player Madan Lal. I have regularly played international cricket since then, until I called time on my career a few years ago.

Cricket in my beloved country has come a long way since I started playing the game. Infrastructure such as the number of grounds and facilities — both catering to domestic and international standards — have certainly improved by leaps and bounds. However, I feel that it’s still more quantity than quality.

The governing body needs to introduce the game at the grassroot level because we hosted the second leg of the 14th edition of the IPL, ICC T20 World Cup and the PSL.

Emiratis have so much potential and they can certainly make the country proud at the international level. Free coaching can be given to them, and I can offer my services.

Our youngsters need to play red ball cricket more to develop their skills as they have been immersed in the T10/20 white ball variant of the game that is instant by definition. Playing the longer version is the only way to strengthen the fundamentals of the game.

Young Emiratis need to follow this principle to make cricket popular in our young nation. These initiatives need to be taken as our country has become a hub of international cricket since the ICC’s headquarters are located in Dubai.

The UAE hasn’t got Test status yet because the game is popular only among expats, unlike a war-torn Afghanistan. Even Ireland is doing well.

(The author is a former cricket captain of the UAE)

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