It’s not every day you see someone score a double century in T20 cricket, especially at the junior level, but that was certainly the case in Sharjah as Ronak Panoly left everyone in awe following his historic unbeaten 256-run knock.
The 14-year-old, representing GEMS Modern Academy, was in a world of own in the Under-14 MGS Vision Cup match as he put The Millennium School (TMS), Dubai, to the sword.
Panoly, whose quick-fire half-century helped GEMS to the 2016 National School League (NSL) final, let his bat do the talking once again by smashing an astonishing 30 sixes and 14 boundaries off just 72 deliveries.
GEMS eventually made 352-2, the tournament’s highest total before they wrapped up a 249-run victory. Unsurprisingly, Panoly was named Man of the Match and the opener said it was surreal to write himself into the tournament’s history books with their highest individual score.
“It’s a great feeling to score a 250, especially in T20 especially as I’ve not been scoring big recently,” he said. “Scoring a 200 in a 50-over is difficult but to do it in a T20 match is an unbelievable feeling.
“It is a real honour to write history in this tournament which I really enjoy playing.”
While it’s the highest individual score in the tournament, it’s unclear if it’s the record in junior cricket in the UAE or even a potential world record since tallies of domestic games in this country are not recorded.
Nevertheless, Panoly’s father, Sudesh, was thrilled with his son’s achievement after being called by GEMS coach Shafiq Ahmed.
“When I first heard the news, I thought it was the team score but then he said it was Ronak’s individual score and I thought he was joking,” said Panoly senior.
“He said it again and then it sunk in that Ronak reached the big milestone. I want to thank all the coaches who have helped him.”
One of his early coaches, Sudhakar Shetty of MGS, added: “Ronak’s innings was simply an epic one and beyond comparison. I strongly believe there’s more to come from him in the future.”
UAE captain Rohan Mustafa believes the national team is reaping the rewards of having central-contracted players following their recent improvement on the field.
The UAE arrived back to Dubai on Friday morning having clinched a 2-1 series victory in the 50-over format over Oman. It was their third-consecutive series triumph after beating Papua New Guinea on their home turf in the T20s (3-0) and ODIs (2-1) as well as the four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup last month.
The positive results have come almost 12 months after the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) introduced their first-ever central contracts with eight players on full-time deals, while four are on part-time.
Full-timers Imran Haider, Qader Ahmed, Mustafa, Mohammed Qasim, Mohammed Usman, Rameez Shahzad and Ghulam Shabbir, as well as part-timers Amjad Javed, Ahmed Raza, Mohammed Naveed and Shaiman Anwar were 11 of the dozen to have played in both or one of the series.
The move came at a time when the UAE were struggling but since the announcement, the team have gradually showed signs of improvement with 13 wins in 29 matches, 11 of those in 2017 alone. Mustafa now feels the step of moving into professionalism is beginning to pay off.
“It’s been almost a year since we have been awarded the central contracts and I do honestly believe we are seeing improvement in the team,” said the 29-year-old batsman.
We look at five men behind UAE cricket's upturn in fortunes after getting back to winning ways against PNG.https://t.co/a3Ue3OC8DP— Sport360° (@Sport360) April 17, 2017
“When the contracts first began, my average in ODIs was around seven or eight and now it’s around 26. When Mohammed Usman and Imran Haider started, they were not consistent with their performances but now over the time, they’ve improved considerably and are taking wickets and scoring runs. “If you work hard for many hours per day, there’s no doubt you can improve as a player and I’m seeing that everyday when we train regularly. I’m really happy that we are playing well and I think the ability to train on a daily basis for a full day is making a big difference.”
The recent change of fortunes has also been achieved without a permanent head coach after Aaqib Javed stepped down last May. Former England internationals Paul Franks, Owais Shah and ex-Warwickshire boss Dougie Brown, who was in charge for the PNG and Oman series, have all been at the helm on short term deals.
The ECB is expected to make an official announcement on Aaqib’s permanent successor later this month and while Mustafa respects the decision for taking their time, he admits it was a difficult period working with different coaches.
“In my point of view, once you bring in a new coach for a short period, it’s very difficult for a player,” he said. “Each person has their own coaching philosophy and it can be different working with others. “I’ve seen a good coach in Dougie Brown and he’s very understandable. He doesn’t get frustrated if we don’t win games or do mistakes because he makes us understand. He’s a good coach and if he stays on as UAE coach it will be good.”
Ghulam Shabbir feels he’s rediscovering his best form with the bat after scoring a half-century in the UAE defeat to Oman on Thursday.
The wicketkeeper smashed 51 runs in the 50-over match but it wasn’t enough for his team to seal a 3-0 series whitewash win as the tourists fell to a 38-run loss in Muscat.
It was the 31-year-old’s second fifty of the tour and third milestone in eight matches and the Jhang-born is pleased he’s proving that he can make big scores and not just be handy behind the stumps.
“Nowadays, cricket is evolving and batting is equally as important as wicket-keeping,” he said.
“I feel there’s been a lot of improvement in my batting and although I scored a half-century, it was disappointed to have not won the series 3-0 because that was a scoreline that we all wanted.”
The series was the last in charge for Dougie Brown as interim head coach with the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) expected to name the permanent successor to Aaqib Javed later this month, a year after the ex-Pakistani pacer ended his successful four-year stay in the Emirates.
Shabbir credited Brown for their revival under the former Warwickshire boss, who also oversaw series victories in all three formats against Papua New Guinea last month.
“He’s definitely one of the best coaches I’ve worked with,” he said.
“He made the whole team united and gave the confidence to each and every player that they can do things. There was a real positive vibe around the squad and the players were really happy because we were improving every day.
“We will be ready to improve even more with the new coach.”