Emirati cricketers Obaid and Omar have spoken of their aspirations of their love for the game and wanting to follow in the footsteps of their father Mohammed Tauqir by representing the UAE national team one day.
Obaid, 13, and Omar, 8, have been enhancing their knowledge and skills at Desert Cubs Cricket Academy for six months now under the guidance of head coach Presley Polonowita, a former Sri Lankan cricketer himself.
Mohammed donned the national jersey for more than decade and captained the UAE team in the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. And having seen their father rub shoulders with the world’s elite on television, both Obaid and Omar want to create memories of their own.
“I love playing cricket,” said Obaid, a fast-bowling all-rounder.
“I’ve been playing since I was four years old. My grandfather took me to the park and we started playing. I started enjoying cricket because it was a family thing. Now I want to be like my dad, and captain the UAE team one day and make my breakthrough in the Under-19 teams.
“There is an athletics coach at Desert Cubs who helps with fitness which is a key part of cricket.”
His younger sibling, Omar, has too taken a lot of interest in cricket and while there’s still a lot of time for him to develop, at just eight-years-old, it’s a sport that he simply adores. “The best thing I like about cricket is hitting the ball. It’s something I love and it feels nice,” he said.
Mohammed has already seen signs of improvement from both his sons and is confident they will continue to excel.
“I’m really happy with the whole set up at Desert Cubs,” said the 45-year-old spinner, who is a national selector for the ECB.
“It has been very helpful in the shaping up of my children. They have improved their cricket and their overall fitness.
“I would love to see my children represent UAE. At the same time it has to be their commitment also. It will also be good if other Emirati youngsters also take up the game.”
Their sister Ayesha, who is pursuing athletics at Desert Cubs, also believes her brothers can reach their goal. “They can do it and have talent, if they work hard and concentrate on fitness.”
Polonowita hopes this can now be the start of more Emirati children taking up the sport.
“If we think of the future of cricket in the UAE, it has to be through locals. That’s why through Desert Cubs I’m trying to encourage UAE nationals to come here and get trained and represent their own country,” he said.
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.”