Top of the class

Coaches from the ICC's Global Academy are committed to helping cricket grow here and are visiting 25 schools in the region.

The former Pakistan Test player Mudassar Nazar teaches a group of children from the Al Khaleej School in Dubai.
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Children here are being given the opportunity to get lessons from the world's leading coaches as the Global Cricket Academy start close to home in their quest to promote and develop the sport across the world. The elite coaching team will visit more than 20 schools across the country this month in a mission to enthuse children in the game, create a competitive schools league and lay the foundations for future international success.

The UAE has been increasingly important and influential in the cricketing world in recent years following the ICC's move to Dubai in 2005. The creation of state-of-the-art stadiums in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and the decision of the Pakistan team to host their international fixtures in the UAE has established the county on the cricketing map. But despite boasting world class stadiums and being home to the International Cricket Council's (ICC) Global academy, the UAE national team are ranked a lowly 17th in the world and have not qualified for the World Cup since 1996.

Months before the cream of world's cricketing talent arrive at the Dubai-based academy to complete their cricketing education, children at the Al Khaleej National School began theirs as they were taken through catching drills and taught how to bat and bowl by those tasked with re-drafting the coaching manual. PE Teacher Hani Samir said it was a once in a lifetime opportunity for his students. "It is very special to have access to the best coaches in the world. It has really motivated the children and they are eager to form a school team.

"We are pleased that our Emirati students are keen to try the sport and we look forward to using the amazing facilities at the academy's base in Sports City. "We are committed to developing the sport and are going to build nets and a training pitch to enable the students to practice what they have learnt. There is a lack of public facilities in the UAE and so the academy, working closely with schools, will help provide opportunities. I think the school visits are crucial in nurturing the young talent we have.

"One of our boys is good enough to play internationals and I will propose him to the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB). At the moment the most popular sports in the school are football and basketball but this visit has got the children very excited about cricket." Rod Marsh, the former Australian wicketkeeper and director of coaching at the academy, said that one of the key objectives was to spread a passion for cricket and encourage participation.

"In total we will have visited 25 schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi by early April talking to teachers and planning a structure for developing youth cricket in the region. "We want to learn what the local issues and ideas are and create a platform for children to participate and improve. "We aim to hold an inter-school tournament at Sports City and build on the links with schools we forge this month. If we see some talented young cricketers in the schools' clinics we will work with the ECB to give them international exposure in age group tournaments."

Dale Hadlee, the academy bowling coach, said with an increase in international fixtures being held here, awareness and interest in the game were set to grow and that would help the academy meet their objectives of developing cricket in the region. "Australia are playing Pakistan in Dubai next month and this will increase the awareness of cricket. We have the best facilities in the world at the academy and the UAE National Team, and local schools will have the opportunity to use them. We will also run courses to increase the number of coaches."

Mudassar Nazar, the academy batting coach, said that having the academy gave the UAE a unique opportunity to establish themselves as a leading cricketing nation. "Having facilities and coaching on their doorstep will give the UAE an edge over the 103 other countries that play cricket in the world," said Nazar.