Businessman’s cricket collection keeps score at Dubai museum

Inside the continually evolving museum created by UAE businessman and cricket lover Shyam Bhatia, the walls are alive with photographs of past and present international cricketing stars.

Businessman and cricket lover Shyam Bhatia runs the country’s only museum for the sport. Satish Kumar / The National
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DUBAI // When a cricket record tumbles, the displays in a cricket history museum in Jumeirah are updated.

Inside the continually evolving museum created by UAE businessmen and cricket lover Shyam Bhatia, the walls are alive with photographs of past and present international cricketing stars, along with their bowling and batting statistics for test matches and one-day games.

“I’m trying to create a history of the game so, at a glance, you know who are the cricket gods,” said Mr Bhatia, founder and chairman of Alam Steel, one of the oldest steel companies in the Arabian Gulf.

“These records should be easily understandable. At one look you can see matches, wickets, runs scored, their average, everything. We keep updating to keep it fresh. Youngsters and even cricketers come to read the history of the game.”

Bats autographed by famous players, gloves, T-shirts, balls and stumps are all part of his collection, neatly preserved in glass and wooden cases in the museum built six years ago and opened to the public in 2012.

Spread over two floors, the 10,000-run club and the 400-plus wickets group are the latest additions to the floor-to-ceiling statistics highlighted with team colours, such as yellow for Australian and maroon for the West Indies. While Indian cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar clocked up 10,000 runs in 122 matches, West Indian powerhouse Brian Lara entered the elite club in 111 test matches, data from cricketing record books also provided insight about which teams the batsmen took apart.

“If a great batsman has scored four or five centuries against Bangladesh, it does not mean as much. For instance, Sunil Gavaskar made the 10,000 club in 124 matches, scoring 13 centuries against a formidable West Indies team,” Mr Bhatia said.

For the elite 400-plus wickets bowlers’ club, the number of runs conceded is also noted, with former Australian speedster Glenn McGrath the most economical, followed by one of the world’s great fast bowlers, New Zealander Richard Hadlee.

“People come here again and again because it’s fascinating to read updates,” said Gopal Jaspara, head of coaching establishment Gforce Cricket Academy. “It’s good for youngsters to see the past and present mix of players and learn from the statistics.”

Brief profiles of top cricketers showcase players who have dominated the game. One wall, titled Test Cricket History, takes visitors back to 1877 when the first match was played between England and Australia.

Over the weekend, groups of schoolchildren scrutinise the walls for details about their ­heroes. Others pore over old cricket books in a library packed with 1,500 titles, some from the 19th century with black-and-white photographs depicting the technique of former greats.

“It’s inspiring to understand the hard work needed to make a national team,” said Krish Maskara, 12, a fast bowler from Our Own High School Al Warqa’a, who was among 30 fans visiting recently.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Ajay Nardhani, 13, from Dubai Gem Private School enjoyed reading about his idols Tendulkar and Australian Adam Gilchrist. “The most interesting part is to understand how cricketers captained teams, who scored the most runs and took the most wickets.”