When both the national anthems of the UAE and India were played during a commemoration ceremony of the Indian indoor cricket team on Friday night, ‘Mr Cricket’ Anis Sajan placed his right hand over his heart.
As his actions suggest, both countries are very dear to him. After all, he’s called the UAE his home since 1992, while his roots are deep in his home country, India.
Since his arrival in Dubai, not only has he become a successful businessman by setting up Danube Group along with his older brother Rizwan but he has played an integral role in the UAE cricket scene.
With a fond passion for the game, his outdoor and indoor sides Danube Lions and Danube Tigers were a dominant force in the domestic competitions, winning the majority of titles in front of them, before closing down in 2016.
Yet, he still remains in cricket. Last month, he announced the purchase of the Gujarat Tigers franchise that will compete in the T10 League in Sharjah later this year.
But this week, his focus is on the Indoor Cricket World Cup at InSportz Club in Dubai.
Sajan is the mentor for India and while he has happy memories of winning top trophies, he ranks this opportunity as among the best.
“It’s the best thing to happen,” said Sajan, who revealed he turned down an approach from the UAE having agreed to mentor India.
“When you have had a local team which I had for the last 20 years but being recognised as a mentor for an international team like India which is my home country, then it’s right at the top. It cannot get any bigger than this.
“I will use my business skills which is motivating. If I keep motivating my Indian cricket team, I’m sure they will do well. Having said that, they are a bunch of youngsters who are playing this cricket and have not been exposed to this format like the Australian indoor team. But give them a little time, and I’m sure they’ll improve over the years.”
India have been impressive so far with two consecutive victories, and they sit third in the standings with 14 points.
They face defending champions Australia this afternoon before taking on the UAE later in the evening.
“If you ask me now, as a mentor of Team India then I definitely have to support India and want them to win,” he said when asked who he would be supporting. “My heart is on one side (India) and mind is on the other (with the UAE). But I’ll stick with my heart and wish all the best to the UAE against the other teams.”
He’s certainly enjoying the buzz of being back in cricket but gave a strong hint that both his outdoor and indoor sides could return this season. “Hopefully, God willing. This has given me a kick to come back again and you never know, Mr Cricket Anis Sajan could well be back in cricket,” he said.
There was no repeat of a UAE victory against New Zealand on Saturday but the close defeat gave captain Saqib Nazir plenty of optimism that the men’s team can go far in the Indoor Cricket World Cup.
There was no shortage of support at InSportz Club as more than 150 home fans gathered around Pitch 3 for the second meeting between the two sides in less than a week. The UAE had stunned the six-time runners-up on Monday but couldn’t make it a double on Saturday.
New Zealand, featuring ex-Test player Jesse Ryder, got their revenge by defeating the hosts 125-111 (26-30, 40-20, 23-24, 36-70).
With most rules similar to the outdoor game, each player bowled two overs and batted as a pair for four overs. For each wicket that fell, the batting team lost five points but the batsman could still continue until the allotted four overs (termed as skins) were over.
While New Zealand claimed the three points for the win, they got an extra point for winning the second skin (40-20) with skipper Victor Davies top-scoring with 25. But there was something to celebrate for the UAE, who earned three points for winning three skins (30-26, 24-23, 70-36). Prashath Kumara was the top-scorer with 20 runs with Isuru Umesh taking two wickets.
“Losing is not a good feeling on the inside but we got three skins from a quality side which no one expected. We believe in our abilities and this team will go far I am sure,” said Nazir, who believes the team must improve their bowling.
“With them scoring 125, I wasn’t really surprised of our batting performance. I’m really happy that they believed in themselves and their ability. We always knew we are a quality side and can chase any score.”
Before a ball was even bowled, New Zealand copied their rugby counter-parts by performing the famous Haka. While the rest of the crowd were stunned, Nazir admitted it was something they were expecting.
“We had been watching videos and were expecting them to do the haka,” he said. “We wanted to do the UAE traditional dance but unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to do it.”
In other results, defending champions Australia, who have won every edition since its inception in 1995, thrashed Malaysia while India proved to be too strong for Singapore.
All nine teams participating in the Indoor Cricket World Cup Dubai 2017 gathered on Saturday at the Insportz Club for the opening ceremony.
The National Anthem of all nine countries: the UAE, Australia, England, South Africa, Singapore, Malaysia, India, New Zealand and Sri Lanka were played to mark the occasion, while a local UAE troupe performed the traditional Ayala stick dance.
Emirates Cricket Board member Zayed Abbas welcomed all the athletes and officials to Dubai and was especially proud of the UAE representation at the event.
President of the World Indoor Cricket Federation Greg Donnelley formally declared the games open. Donnelly, who has been associated with the indoor games for over 25 years, said “The World Indoor Cricket federation is pleased to be hosting the Indoor Cricket World Cup for the first time ever in the Middle East.
“Cricket is growing at a fast pace in this region, and we hope the World Cup will play a significant role in growing the sport in the region. While Indoor Cricket has a strong base in countries like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, it is heartening to see countries like Malaysia and Singapore here with us, it is a sign that the future of the sport is secure.”
Please find below the schedule of matches on September 16, 2017 at Insportz Club Dubai.