Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) chief executive David East has hailed the creation of the National School League (NSL) while UAE coach Aaqib Javed described the league as “the start of the pathway” for cricket in the country, saying it will provide him with an opportunity to scout for talent for the under-16 team.
With the league set to attract over 600 students, East has called on children not to miss out on this opportunity.
He said: “We want to encourage as many juniors as possible playing cricket in schools. Ideally, we would really like the sport to be played on the school agenda on a weekly basis. And so this is a good opportunity for people to play good quality cricket on good grass wickets. I am really hopeful that everyone can embrace the opportunity.”
The 55-year-old and former Essex County wicketkeeper added: “It’s a great initiative and delighted the ECB are associated with it. There’s very good development programmes taking place throughout the country, and this is the first time there is national co-ordinated schools competition and it’s something very positive for the ECB and for juniors who want to play cricket in the country.
“One of the key strategic objectives at the ECB is to have more Emiratis playing cricket. And if this league can achieve, or start to make steps to achieve this, then that will be excellent.”
Javed, part of Pakistan’s 1992 World Cup winning squad, added: “If you want to develop anything anywhere you need to have a base, and cricket at grass-root level is really important. School cricket is as important than anything, because if you want to popularise this game, you need to engage youngsters.
"This could be the start of attracting Emiratis to the sport, because when they see other people play cricket they might get interested in the game."
He added: “Sri Lanka has a strong school cricket [competition] and this is how they are developing good professional players for the national team. I think it’s going to be a wonderful opportunity for children to start playing cricket; this is one of the starting points of the UAE pathway in the game.”
As well as coaching the national team, the 42-year-old also oversees the under-16 and under-19 teams, and will look to recruit players from the NSL.
He said: “Previously, there were a few school tournaments and I could only select under-16 players purely on trial basis. This will give me a wider selection choice. For sure I will go and see some matches.”
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