Rajasthan Royals are opening a new coaching academy in the UAE, with former Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer as head coach.
The IPL franchise will base their new venture, for six to 19-year-olds, at The Sevens, Dubai. It is only their second academy outside of India, the other being in Surrey in the UK.
Plans for the academy have been under discussion for the past six to nine months, long before the decision was taken to relocate the IPL to the UAE.
Jake Lush McCrum, Rajasthan’s chief operating officer, says he hopes the new coaching school will have a lasting impact on the game in the emirates.
“We were discussing this before the IPL was announced in the UAE, so it is a happy coincidence the IPL shifted across here,” Lush McCrum said.
“We want to further the grassroots development. We are not here for a one-off season. We want to invest in the country, invest in grassroots cricket here, grow the reach of our brand, and train people the Royals way.
“We believe we have different methodologies for developing players that are unique to our academies. We have regular audits of the academies to make sure they are following those approaches.”
The long-term plan is to have tournaments between the Royals academy sides from Dubai, the UK and India.
The Dubai centre will also be used to trial new technologies, influenced by baseball, with a view to implementing them in the training practices of the full IPL side in future.
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“This is a great opportunity to help grow our fan-base here 365 days per year,” Lush McCrum said. “We have been looking at the UAE for a while, but it is about finding the right partner, who has good experience and been successful here.
“It is a challenging thing coming to a country you have no experience in yourself. We wanted someone who could follow our Royals brand of cricket, and share that philosophy.”
That partnership is with a new company – Red Bear Sports – that is co-founded and run by Dougie Brown, the former UAE coach, and Will Kitchen, the former performance director of the Emirates Cricket Board.
“We are passionate about developing cricket in the UAE, and we were keen to find a partner to help us continue the work we have done in terms of player development for the past six or seven years,” Kitchen said.
“We want to bring to life the things we think are important to young people when trying to engage them in the game.
“If we can find people we think can progress to IPL, fantastic. But what we really want to do is try to make sure we can enable people to engage with coaches who are passionate about the game.”
Kitchen hopes to have 150 children enrolled in the academy by the end of the year. The initial intake will include six scholarships for girls, selected from a trial next week involving up to 22 players recommended by the ECB.
The new venture will be the first time a coaching academy has been based at The Sevens, which has three grass cricket ovals, as well as a number of sand grounds, adjacent to city’s rugby headquarters.
“We think the quality of the facilities are paramount to the experience,” Kitchen said. “There is no doubt in my mind that The Sevens is one of the best cricket facilities. We are blessed in the UAE to have four or five unbelievably high quality cricket facilities.
“I think back now to when I was a young player, at club grounds. The chance here, for young players to step on to the same facilities that IPL franchises train on is a real point of difference.
“We think the extra 10 or 15 minute commute [from Dubai] is worth it, to train somewhere that is not just high quality but genuinely inspiring.”