Yodhin Punja in action against Royal Belfast Academical Institute of Ireland in the ARCH Trophy U19 at the Abu Dhabi Cricket Council Oval-2 on Monday, March 28, 2016. Amith Passela/The National
Yodhin Punja in action against Royal Belfast Academical Institute of Ireland in the ARCH Trophy U19 at the Abu Dhabi Cricket Council Oval-2 on Monday, March 28, 2016. Amith Passela/The National

UAE in focus: Promising all-rounder Yodhin Punja granted cricket scholarship with English school

Yodhin Punja has been granted a cricket scholarship with a school in England, writes Amith Passela

The UAE have lost another bright young cricketing prospect: Yodhin Punja, who became the youngest player, at 16, to play for the country in two formats – first-class and one-day internationals – will leave for England in the summer to join Claremont High School on a cricket scholarship.

Punja made his first-class debut in the Intercontinental Cup and first ODI appearance in the World Cricket League, both against Hong Kong last year. Before that, he starred for the UAE Under 19 side in the ACC Cup.

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He led Abu Dhabi Cricket Council in last year’s inaugural U19 inter-emirate national title and captained The Cambridge High School to win the U19 Abu Dhabi School League. It was also in 2015 that he was spotted by Claremont High School while leading Zayed Cricket Academy (ZCA) to the U16 Arch Cup title.

This time around, youngsters from England will face his pace at the ongoing Arch Trophy U19 tournament, being played in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Ajman. The all-rounder has so far taken four wickets in the ZCA’s two wins over ICC Cricket Academy and Royal Belfast Academical Institute.

ZCA face Radley College of England today and the winner will play in Friday’s final.

How do you look at the Arch Trophy with so many foreign teams, particularly from England?

This is the third time I am playing in this competition and I see it as a platform for us to showcase our skills in front of some influential people. It helped me to get admission to a school in England where I can pursue my academics as well as cricket.

It is exciting times for you, to study in England and pursue a career in cricket?

I have been waiting for this opportunity for a long time. Yes, I’m very excited, and looking forward to playing cricket in England. Of course I have to thank my parents for the support they have extended, particularly to pursue my cricket.

What sort of impact would you want to make?

I want to make the best use of this opportunity and establish a name for myself as quickly as possible. On the short term, my objectives would be to try and reach a level where I can play for clubs and counties.

What’s your feeling on leaving the UAE?

The UAE provided me a good platform. I lived all my life here and learnt all my cricket at the Zayed Cricket Academy. I want to thank from the bottom of the heart to all the coaches and staff at the academy. I discussed this matter with some of my coaches and they were all unanimous in their decision that I should go.

How did your cricket career start?

I was born on the same day as Sachin Tendulkar, on April 24. That created an interest to play cricket. I started to play with my friends in the streets and then my parents enrolled me at the Zayed Cricket Academy in 2007.

Did you have a cricket role model? Initially no. But later on, James Anderson (England fast bowler) when I started to play more seriously.

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Recipe: Spirulina Coconut Brothie

1 tbsp Spirulina powder
1 banana
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (full fat preferable)
1 tbsp fresh turmeric or turmeric powder
½ cup fresh spinach leaves
½ cup vegan broth
2 crushed ice cubes (optional)

Blend all the ingredients together on high in a high-speed blender until smooth and creamy. 

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