Kings' Cricket Academy start with a bang in ECB league as masterclass with Saqlain Mushtaq awaits

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The U19 Kings' Cricket Academy squad.

The past weekend marked the start of the annual Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) National Academies League, with as many as 22 different academies set to battle it out for the coveted honour over the course of the next six months.

As the popularity of the sport continues to skyrocket in the UAE, it is the various academies that have mushroomed up across the country which are playing a pivotal role in developing the future stars of tomorrow.

The Kings’ Cricket Academy in Al Barsha, Dubai, is one such name which has been leading the way towards that goal and its talented pool of players are more than ready to put on a big show once again if their pre-season preparations and start to the league are anything to go by.

Led by a superb unbeaten fifty from captain Hamad Arshad, the U19 developmental squad started the league in style with a thumping seven-wicket win over Al Ain Cricket Club. Earlier, the squad had warmed up for the league with an equally convincing pre-season win over the touring Himalaya Cricket Academy from Nepal. Once again, it was skipper Hamad who led from the front with an excellent unbeaten ton.

The extensive run out against what was a talented Nepalese outfit, as well as the win in the season opener, augurs well for the team’s chances in the ECB league even though results are mostly secondary for the academy’s ambitions.

Skipper Hamar Arshad's unbeaten 54 led the way against Al Ain Academy.

Skipper Hamad Arshad’s unbeaten 54 led the way against Al Ain.

Committed to opening up future professional pathways for the talented kids in its roster, the Kings’ academy is leaving no stone unturned to bridge the gap between grassroots cricket and potentially international cricket.

“We strive to provide a system to the kids in which they can hone their all-round skills with an equal emphasis on batting, bowling and more importantly, fielding,” coach Ash Mohammed said.

“There is no reason why our boys cannot aspire to represent the UAE professionally in the future.

“The realms of possibilities are endless and we believe our kids are good enough to aim to play cricket professionally in even England, India and Australia.”

Continued participation in the ever-expanding ECB league is part of that process for the academy with the professionally run set-up providing the players with a chance to constantly push themselves to greater heights.

Having come into existence four years ago, the 2019/20 National Academies League calendar is set to be its biggest one so far.

“The National Academy League sees 472 matches played over six months of competition. The ECB is proud to partner with academies in delivering this event and it gives the future stars of UAE cricket a platform to shine,” ECB national development manager Andrew Russell explained.

The fruits of the various academies and the ECB are already being picked with the UAE U19 squad qualifying for next year’s ICC World Cup in South Africa for the first time on merit.

While the chance to represent UAE in the future is incentive enough for any aspiring youngster in the Kings’ academy, they will soon get an opportunity to learn from one of the most highly-sought coaches on the international circuit.

Former Pakistan off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq (l).

Former Pakistan off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq (l).

Former Pakistan ace and current England spin consultant Saqlain Mushtaq is set to arrive at the academy in the coming week to deliver a masterclass, and the young kids could not have asked for a better mentor.

Saqlain’s prowess with the ball is legendary while the 42-year-old’s impressive coaching pedigree has seen him serve stints with the Australia, New Zealand, West Indies and Bangladesh national teams apart from his current commitments with the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Learning from a man whose already stellar coaching resume has been bolstered recently by an ICC World Cup triumph can only be a good thing for aspiring youngsters from the academy, and is just one of many steps the King’ Academy is undertaking to convert their lofty dreams into reality.

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