DUBAI // Given Australia’s performance in the Test defeat to Pakistan in Dubai, it might be safe to assume Adam Gilchrist’s presence in town would have something to do with them.
Having lost the first match by 221 runs, and with a series to save in Abu Dhabi this week, they could probably do with some input from their greatest ever wicket-keeper/batsman.
However, the recently-retired gloveman is in the city for a cause which has the interests of UAE cricket, rather than that of his homeland, at its core.
Gilchrist presented his eponymously-named Sports Award to Dan D’Souza, an Abu Dhabi-born batsman, at the University of Wollongong Dubai.
As a product of the UAE’s Under 19 World Cup team, D’Souza is one of the leading young cricketers in the country.
The award provides him with a 50 per cent waiver on tuition fees while he studies for his finance degree. Importantly for UAE cricket, it also means he will remain in the country.
He was referred to UOWD by David East, the Emirates Cricket Board chief executive, as the governing body seek to remedy the long-standing talent drain of players aged 18 to 21.
The pathway from playground to international arena is broken when talented sportsmen leave the country to attend university abroad. Often, they do not return, at least not to play representative sport.
“I think this is a good initiative by the university and the cricket board to bridge that gap,” said D’Souza, 20, who attended British School Al Khubairat in Abu Dhabi.
“It means we get a lot more competitive cricket, and it not only benefits us, it benefits the country in terms of keeping the home grown talent here.
“That means you can push through some youngsters in terms of the national team.”
Having deferred entry to university to devote himself to playing for UAE in the Under 19 World Cup, D’Souza expects to complete all his further education in Dubai.
However, he hopes to be able to spend some time on a placement in Australia, at the main campus near Sydney, playing grade cricket.
“We understand there is a void period for local talent being nurtured and continuing on in the system,” Gilchrist said.
“If these opportunities and programmes can allow students to stay home, continue to further their education, yet still work at a passion outside of that, I think that will be more productive for this region. Hopefully it will produce some positive results.
“It would also broaden Dan’s horizon from a cricket and educational perspective to be able to spend some time at the main campus.
“He is eager to progress through the rungs of UAE cricket, so that is going to enhance UAE cricket’s knowledge base.”
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