GEMS Heritage Indian School, in partnership with ESM (East Sports Management), on Friday inaugurated GEMS Heritage Cricket Academy, a world-class facility with state-of-the-art technology, an enhanced curriculum and ICC-qualified coaches, all designed to offer young cricketers unmatched training, support and opportunities to play matches.
With West Indies cricketing legend Brian Lara as the guest of honour, the event was held on the grounds of GEMS Heritage Indian School and included a girls’ and boys’ T10 cricket match, a variety of cricketing activities, inspirational speeches and an official unveiling of the Heritage Plaque, marking the launch of not just the new academy, but also the Heritage Cricket Cup.
To cheers from spectating students and their families, Lara took to the crease at the start of the girls’ match and later tossed the coin for the boys’ game.
Sunny Varkey, GEMS Education founder, said: “I am proud to see the establishment of such an important initiative to promote cricket – a sport so loved in India, my home country, as well as in the UAE, my home. I am also immensely pleased to see this special academy come to fruition as one of the standout USPs of GEMS Heritage Indian School.
“We are laying the foundations of a glorious cricketing future for our students, the school, GEMS Education and the nation as a whole, and I look forward to seeing the cricketing stars of tomorrow develop their skills today in our academy.”
Legendary batsman Lara, who is considered as one of the all-time greats, said: “I’m delighted to be a part of this great moment at GEMS Heritage Indian School. It was great talking to Sunny Varkey and understanding the school’s association with the tournament, along with the broader vision of promoting the best cricket experience in the UAE.
“ School cricket is the life and soul of this beautiful game, and where the passion to play at the highest level comes from for any international cricketer. Knowing that Dubai is a melting pot of talented players from around the world, I certainly believe the Heritage Cricket Cup will be an amazing experience and a tournament that will set the standard of youth cricket in the country for a very long time.”
Darryl Bloud, Executive Principal, GEMS Heritage Indian School, added: “The launch of GEMS Heritage Cricket Academy marks a memorable moment in our school’s history. Our sporting facilities lend themselves very well to the introduction of a large-scale academy and tournament, and I am delighted to be part of such a fantastic initiative – one that promises a rewarding sporting experience for our talented students to develop and hone their cricket skills.”
The inaugural Heritage Cricket Cup features players from 21 schools from across the UAE, with a mix of the country’s top up-and-coming cricketers.
The tournament aims to bring out the best in these rising stars, as the Heritage Cricket Cup provides important quality game time for young players to test and execute the skills they have learned and practised over the course of the season.
James Bowring, Managing Director of ESM, said: “The partnership between GEMS Heritage Indian School and ESM started with a shared vision of creating a school which would deliver cricket like no other. ESM is very proud of the outcome, as the facilities have been purpose built to give cricketers of all ages a wonderful place to be coached, practise and, most importantly, play cricket matches at every level.
“I am really excited to see talented cricket stars emerge from GEMS Heritage Cricket Academy in the future.”
GEMS Heritage Cricket Academy is open to cricketers aged three to six, who can join the Mini Smashers programme, as well as those aged seven to 16.
Offerings include ICC-qualified coaches, international-grade facilities, technology-driven training with Pitch Vision and BOLA Bowling machines, a variety of tournaments and talent camps, and free transportation to and from the Academy provided by STS (School Transport Services).
Former Pakistan coach and captain Waqar Younis predicts a bright future for the Abu Dhabi T20, saying it has the potential to become a mega event on the cricketing calendar.
The inaugural competition, which saw different sides from around the globe descend on the UAE capital, ended with Pakistan Super League franchise Lahore Qalandars being crowned champions.
Runners-up Multiply Titans of South Africa, England’s Yorkshire Vikings, New Zealand’s Auckland Aces, Afghanistan’s Boost Defenders and Big Bash League’s Hobart Hurricanes completed the six-team line-up that saw the likes of Albie Morkel and Colin Munro in action at Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
The Abu Dhabi T20 was launched by Abu Dhabi Cricket in partnership with Abu Dhabi Sports Council with a vision of making it the sport’s version of the FIFA Club World Cup.
And Waqar, who was commentating during the Abu Dhabi T20 matches, believes the tournament will go from strength to strength.
“It’s a wonderful event,” said the 46-year-old. “The facilities are now oustanding and the pitches are really good. I think it is one of the best venues to host a tournament like this. You have teams coming from all over the world. It is the first time it’s being staged and if it carries on for the next few years, this can become a mega event where all the teams can compete. It’s an ideal centre. There is no home advantage to anyone and it’s a big plus plus.”
Qalandars fielded a squad that was majority made up of players from their development programme. Waqar, who took more than 700 international wickets, believes the Abu Dhabi T20 is a great platform for players to gain experience.
“It’s a perfect place to groom the youngsters and for the kids in the UAE to watch these superstars,” he said. “It’s a learning situation as well and Lahore Qalandars have a lot of new youngsters coming through and are looking to groom. Hopefully these players will go on and play in Pakistan Super League one day.”
The Abu Dhabi T20 was held over three days with a minimum of two matches played per day. Waqar feels it’s best not to expand the tournament to ‘three or four weeks’ if there are plans to invite more teams.
“It’s only a three day tournament and you don’t want to extend it to three or four weeks because there’s so much cricket happening around the world,” he added. “If you keep it short and sweet, people will love it. It’s an ideal place and I don’t really see any reason why this tournament cannot be successful.”
The United Premier League began their fifth season with 10 teams battling it out for glory in the indoor tournament.
Six new franchises have signed up for the latest edition which include Data Care Royals, Omnicom Super Kings, Bengal Tigers, AK Vikings, Nova Creations United and Aks Knights.
They will join four sides who have plenty of experience in the UPL with Athena Warriors, Golden Archers, JayB Stars, and Sun City Gladiators completing the line-up.
All 10 teams will play each other in a league format at InSportz who those advancing playing in a knockout phase ahead of the finale on November 2.
Rahul Tilani, founder of UPL said: “The level of cricket gets competitive every season and this year it’s no different. Our format of having different levels of players from A to G keeps every team in the mix. Look forward to a great season and #KheloUnited”.
He added: “The team owners, captains along with the crew of the league are extremely motivated and inspired for this season and hope to make it a big success.”
This season is backed by Data Care Group. Pavan Bagnari, sales director of Data Care said: “I am very happy to support and be associated with the United Premier League. I wish all the 10 teams best of luck”.