Dubai Sports City’s latest Open Day this Friday (28 November) is all set to be a success in more ways than one as it coincides with international cricketing action at the ICC Academy.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) national team will be playing Afghanistan in a One-Day International at one of the ICC Academy’s two full-sized ovals.
And so attendees at the Open Day will get a free, first-hand look at two of the sides taking part in next year’s ICC Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
The cricket action will be just a part of the Open Day, which runs from 2 – 6pm and which will showcase the world-class facilities and coaching available from the ICC Academy, Spanish Soccer Schools and Socatots, and the Butch Harmon School of Golf.
And there will also be a chance for attendees to check out the outdoor courts and pitches that can stage athletics, basketball, netball, tennis, rugby, American and Australia Rules Football.
Looking ahead to Friday, Dubai Sports City General Manager – Sports Business Mr Maqbul Dudhia said: “The Open Day at Dubai Sports City has become a regular and hugely popular family day and we are delighted to be staging it once again.
“The fact it coincides with a One-Day International cricket match between the United Arab Emirates and Afghanistan is an added attraction as it will provide people with the opportunity to see, first-hand, how our world-class facilities are used by world-class sportsmen and women.
“We are immensely proud of the range and quality of what we can offer to children and adults of all abilities and this is a perfect opportunity for us to showcase those offerings ahead of term two of the school year that begins in January.”
The ICC Academy provides cricket coaching for children from walking age through its Cricket Cubs programme right up to 18 years old, and this year has also provided courses for the first time for girls and adults too.
And those activities have been continuing while a host of international sides have been using the facilities, including the Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand squads.
Afghanistan, Ireland, Scotland and the UAE are also in the midst of a preparation camp at the ICC Academy ahead of next year’s ICC Cricket World Cup, and New Zealand A are playing matches against them ahead of the Black Caps’ limited overs series against Pakistan next month.
Dubai Sports City also offers football coaching for toddlers through its Socatots programme. And its Spanish Soccer Schools scheme, overseen by Real Madrid and Spain legend Michel Salgado, has crossed 1000 children in just its second year of operation.
The facilities used by the football programmes include a full-sized, FIFA-approved indoor pitch, and both West Ham United and Swansea City from the English Premier League have held training camps there.
Shaiman Anwar and Krishna Karate’s half centuries went in vain as the UAE suffered a 78-run defeat to New Zealand ‘A’ in a practice match on Sunday.
Batting first at the ICC Academy in Dubai, Martin Guptill smashed 75 runs off 94 balls in New Zealand’s 246. UAE captain Khurram Khan claimed 3-48, while Mohammed Naveed, Manjula Guruge and Nasir Aziz shared two wickets each.
In reply, the UAE got off to a poor start and found themselves in trouble at 21-5.
Anwar and Karate then put on a sixth wicket partnership of 89 runs, but the Kiwi bowlers restricted the hosts to 168.
With New Zealand ‘A’ consisting of several international players in Daniel Vettori and captain Kyle Mills, the match provided a glimpse of what to expect at next year’s World Cup.
But coach Aaqib Javed was satisfied with his team’s performance, saying: “We started the game really well bowling out New Zealand for 246.
“When batting, it was just a collapse losing quick wickets, but Shaiman and Karate put on a good partnership to restore the innings.”
Asked if the players were nervous, he said: “No, I don’t think they were but batting collapses just happen, not just for us but for any team.
“We just have to learn how crucial it is put on a good start because we will need to do that for the World Cup.
“This game will have given the players a lot of confidence because to reduce them to 246 is a remarkable effort.
Openers Guptill and Anton Devcich got New Zealand to a strong start putting on an unbeaten 111 for the first wicket before the latter was dismissed by Naveed.
The Kiwis lost three quick wickets as Guptill, Dean Brownlie and Colin Munro all fell.
In reply, the UAE got off to the worst possible start with both openers Amjad Ali and Andri Berenger out for ducks.
Anwar and Karate did offer some resistance, with the former in fine form.
Karate continued to push for the runs, smashing two maximums and three boundaries before being run-out.
Wickets fell for the UAE and Doug Bracewell sealed victory by bowling Guruge in the 45th over.
The last 12 months has seen the UAE national team qualify for both the 2014 World Twenty20 and next year’s World Cup as well as the country hosting its first ever ICC tournament in the Under-19 World Cup.
And to help maintain that success in the future, South African Andrew Russell was recently appointed as the national development manager in a new role at the Emirates Cricket Board.
Having been in the UAE since 2009 as an ICC global cricket academy coaching co-ordinator, Russell has seen the game grow.
He spoke to Sport360° about his plans in integrating and developing players and his aim of getting more Emiratis involved in the game.
Interview by Denzil Pinto
What will your job entail and what are your day-to-day responsiblities?
There’s a lot of cricket played in the UAE but the structure of the game like what is being played, how it’s being played and what progression is being made is a little bit unclear.
My main role is integrating the academies and the cricket councils together in producing better cricketers and more cricketers which would help create more players for the UAE national team.
And what plans have you set to developing more players?
One of the roles is to do an audit of the game by visiting academies around the country and speaking to the coaches on how matches are played, how games are organised, what fac-ilities are available and which schools play cricket etc.
Generally, cricket starts off from the roots and the Sport360° National School League is an unbelievable initiative to get youngsters exposed to competitive cricket in schools.
We then want to start integrating an academy tournament, and then start a similar tournament for different emirates in a nat-ional competition which would hopefully lead onto selection for the UAE national team. It’s creating a structure that any player who wants to play cricket for the UAE will know what he wants to do to achieve that goal. It will be a process and it will take time.
You’ve been in the UAE since 2009 and seen cricket grow. Do you feel being here for a long time gives you an advantage to starting this process?
Yes. David East (Emirates Cricket Board chief) was looking for someone who knows the cricket and the set up already. I do have a wide base of knowledge from my cricketing experience here in the UAE and abroad and it will definitely help me in getting it up and running and start forming relationships to make things happen.
What goals have you set yourself short-term and long-term?
My short-term goal is to learn everything that happens in the UAE cricket scene. I want to learn how the adult and junior game works and start building relationships with coaches and together I want to share my vision of where we can go in the future. My long-term goal is to put together a programme which actually fits into the ECB’s plan in helping their strategy and goals.
What ideas do you have that you want to implement into the UAE game?
There’s so much I want to do but I want to increase the participation of Emiratis in the game. Whether that is through roadshows or even visiting schools, I want to set a programme to get them more involved in cricket, which will be a big key in getting government funding for cricket in the UAE. I also want to create an ideal structure plan for the UAE cricket and see where we are now and want we want to be in a few years time.
Will you still be involved in some capacity with the ICC Academy, now that you have this job?
With me being at the ICC Academy for such a long time, it would be silly for me to stop working for them. I still have an involvement with the ICC Academy by coaching students on a Saturday but my main role is with the ECB.
How will your ICC Academy experience help you with this ECB role?
I have an understanding of the young talent coming through and it does give me some advantage having been with the academy for five years to pick out what is working and what’s not working. My role is about helping create better cricketers and how I can advise academies on how to do things better or differently.
At the ICC Academy, we do things as well as we do on an international standard and I do have that base where I feel I could apply that to the local regional cricket that is being played across the country. Being involved with the children already, I know where they stand .
With the UAE progressing well on the international stage, is there pressure to maintain that success in the future?
It’s all about the performance on an international level. One of the key strategies advised from David East is from the leagues that are played, how will this help the national team.
And I think this can happen by having an organised structure from junior level right through to senior level on an elite level which is the ultimate goal as this will not only develop better cricketers but make them more competitive on a greater international scale.
What made you apply for this ECB role?
I was doing a lot of development work and running a lot of the programmes for the ICC Academy and then this role turned up. It’s a bigger role at a national level and thought I would apply for it.
What other sports you play?
I’m a keen rugby player but also love playing golf, tennis, squash; anything that involves a ball I like playing.