Through Desert Cubs Cricket Academy, Polonnowita is hoping he’s coaching youngsters who will one day make their name with the national team.
Just this past year, the academy had 11 children represent the UAE in the Under-19 boys team and the UAE ladies team.
That achievement has been the culmination of years of development, with Desert Cubs originally starting with just 11 children in 2007 at Sharjah Stadium, to now fielding around 800 registered cricketers and nearly 350 playing badminton, swimming and athletics at three different locations in Sharjah and Dubai.
Polonnowita is the founder and head coach of the academy, with plenty of playing experience under his belt from his days in his native Sri Lanka, where he represented the nation’s U18 team and was a first-class cricketer. Due to dwindling financial support in the country prior to the 1996 World Cup, Presley moved to the UAE for better opportunities in 1994. He continued playing with Lanka Lions until 2005, before coaching the club and then finally launching Desert Cubs.
“Ultimately I realised my playing time is over and it’s time for me to become a good coach and produce more and more talented cricketers for the UAE national teams,” Polonnowita said. “I knew that the UAE needed good players for them to break the ice and become one of the top cricket-playing nations in the world.”
Polonnowita has recently started an elite coaching programme in which he searches and drafts talented kids into U-11, U-13 and U-15 age groups. His plan is to keep these teams together for two, three years to match up with the UAE U-16 selection requirement.
To prepare the young athletes, Desert Cubs’ coaching teaches more than just batting technique or basic fundamentals. Budding players improve not only their physical fitness, but their mental strength through psychology sessions.
“We’ve thought out of the box with psychology sessions, strengthening programmes and in-house extra programmes to give kids an opportunity and make them understand what they have to do to get to the next level,” Polonnowita said.
While training and coaching is crucial, nothing beats actual international competition, which is why Desert Cubs have toured in countries like South Africa, Australia, England, India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia to give their youngsters a taste of what it takes to be a high-quality cricketer.
“We have given children a lot of opportunities to go around the world and experience different conditions,” Polonnowita said.
“It gives them an idea of how to adapt to other conditions, how other children play, how the wickets are behaving differently than in the UAE.
“Once they represent the national team, they will have that knowledge.”
Cricket is the backbone of Desert Cubs, but beginning in 2012, they’ve expanded to now support badminton, swimming and athletics to a multi-sport club.
Their locations are at Sharjah English School, Deira International School and Dubai College.
If you’re a young cricketer or have interest in one of Desert Cubs’ other sports, visit www.desertcubs.com for more details and how to get involved.
What: Desert Cubs Cricket Academy
Geared towards: Cricket, badminton, swimming and athletics enthusiasts
When & where: Open daily at Sharjah English School, Dubai College and Deira International School
Contact & info: Visit www.desertcubs.com for more information