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.”
Chirag Suri has vowed to raise his game and score “big runs” for the UAE in their matches against Namibia despite being satisfied with his performances against Netherlands.
Suri, 22, has retained his place in the 14-man squad for next month’s matches against the African outfit after scoring 25 runs in the triumphant 2-1 50-over series tour against Netherlands in July.
It means the batsman will have another chance to prove his potential when the UAE take on Namibia in the four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup from September 16-19, as well as the two 50-over World Cricket League matches later that month.
And while he’s wary of the stern competition he faces, he is adamant to deliver whenever his opportunity comes.
“I was satisfied over there (in Netherlands) but I still want to be getting more runs,” said Suri, who was bought by Gujarat Lions in this year’s IPL auction.
“ I think being satisfied means you just hold back and be happy with what you got but I don’t think like that. I’m always happy with what I’ve got. I’m still happy with what I did there. It was rainy conditions and hard to score but I still want to do more and score the big runs for the UAE.”
If Suri does line up for the I-Cup game at Windhoek’s Wanderers Cricket Ground, he would be making his first-class debut.
It would be a big step up to a format he’s relatively unknown in, having played various T20 and 50-over matches. But it’s a challenge he’s ready to embrace.
“Obviously, the biggest challenge is the longest format because it’s the biggest test in today’s game,” said the former U-19 player. “You want to prove yourself in that level and if I do play, I’ll be making my first-class debut and want to get a couple of good scores.
“The amount of four-day cricket that we play in the UAE is negligible. Obviously, it’s not something that comes naturally to us and the coaches have really been putting the emphasis of staying as long as we can on the wicket. I want to be playing all three formats for the UAE so want to cement my place in the four-day side although it won’t be easy.”
The team will step up their preparations next Monday by flying to Pretoria for a 12-day training camp at Cricket South Africa High Performance Centre and in Windhoek.
Head coach Dougie Brown has already underlined the importance of that camp considering the matches in the Namibian capital will be played 5,600 feet above sea level.
And Suri is sure that will have a big impact on the whole team. “We have a very good preparation camp which is very exciting and very good opportunity for the boys to get used to the conditions,” he said.
“In Dubai, we have been practicing a lot and South Africa will be great to nuture the skills before then producing the goods against Namibia.”
Head coach Dougie Brown believes the UAE’s preparation camp in South Africa and Namibia will be even more crucial considering his players will have to adapt to playing in a high altitude environment.
The national team will tour Namibia next month for a four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup match beginning September 16 as well as two 50-over games in the World Cricket League on September 21 and 23.
To ensure they are in the best possible shape for those encounters, the coaching staff and the 14-man squad will fly to Pretoria next Monday for a 12-day camp split between Cricket South Africa High Performance Centre, and then Windhoek in Namibia.
With Windhoek’s Wanderers Cricket Ground, which will host the three matches, located approximately 5,600 feet above sea level, Brown is aware of the task ahead but is confident it will only aide his team’s preparations.
“It’s going to be enormous for us,” said the 47-year-old. “A lot of the guys have never played there in Windhoek before and that’s around 6,000 feet above sea level.
“If you’ve been in that environment for any period of time, then you’ll understand exactly the impact of what they would be doing when you’re doing anything physical.
“We are going to Pretoria to begin with and that has altitude as well but not as high as Windhoek. Those preparations will be really important, not just from a cricket perspective but form a physiological perspective.
“It’s getting the guys used to being in an environment they’re not used to but it will be really good. Once we get to Namibia, that’s when the preparation really starts and it’s about winning matches.
“Everything that we have done so far, is in preparation for that. But when we get to Namibia, that’s when it really starts to begin.”