The ICC Academy (ICCA) will hold their first-ever trials for youngsters to earn a fully-funded scholarship this weekend as part of their plans in enhancing their grassroots programmes for budding cricketers in the UAE.
Boys aged between 12-18 will have a chance to impress on Saturday from 14:00 and those who catch the eye of the ICCA coaches will be rewarded with one of 12 paid scholarship into their Warriors Emerging Players Programme this season.
The Dubai-based venue is already an established cricketing centre and home of the UAE national team thanks to their state-of-the-art facilities. Their Babyshop Cricket Cubs and Warrior coaching programmes for youngsters have also been successful.
However, Will Kitchen, general manager at ICCA, says they want to build on this success by giving more opportunities for children including rewarding talented cricketers with a paid scholarship.
“The whole of the UAE is essentially privatised whether it’s schooling or healthcare, so barriers to a venue like ours can be pricey,” he said.
“We want to overcome that with fully-funded scholarships.
“That hopefully removes that barrier to costs to the venue and we’re looking for people who have that X-factor. Young players who show real point of difference whether it’s their desire or something we can see in terms of their physical attributes.
“We want to open our doors to those people who could be potentially be outstanding players who might not be able to come to the academy on the basis of costs. We are funding those ourselves. It’s a considerable investment for us but it will be a big benefit.”
While the scholarships form a key part in promoting grassroots cricket, so is coaching.
Qasim Ali, head of cricket development at ICCA, will oversee a strong coaching team and Kitchen believes it’s essential to offer the very best to children.
“My ambition now is to ensure that in grassroots cricket that we are not just a standalone cricket academy that coaches kids just to make revenue,” he said.
“Instead, we want to actually have some impact on the young people and lots of cricket who play the game here.
“There are three key differences that set us apart from other cricket academies in the UAE.
“The first point is the people – we have been forensic that we have the right type of people here so that young people can develop and have got staff that are fully professional and a real point of
“Second point is the quality of environment. There’s no other environment like this in the UAE. And then there’s the quality of programme with the purpose of our coaching equipping them for games.”
Ali, a former batsman for Lancashire, said it’s exciting times at the academy. “The players will have access to all the resources we have,” he said.
“The purpose of having all this – like a bowling machine, spin lane, using Australian wickets is to equip them with the skills.
“It’s like a kid going to a chocolate shop and pick whatever they want.”