Abu Dhabi: The development of cricket in the UAE received another boost when United Bank Limited joined the small band of institutions in the UAE to offer employment to cricketers when they recruited three ECB players midway through the 2010-2011 season.
With nearly 100 active clubs representing individual promoters of the game as well as institutions playing active cricket in various cricket councils in the UAE, there are only about a dozen of them who offer employment to cricketers.
The United Bank Limited, a Pakistan-based company, started with the formation of a Division Two team about five years back and apart from that extended their support to cricket by sponsoring a tournament under the aegis of the Abu Dhabi Cricket Council.
The bank's support reached a new level when they recruited three ECB players and signed in three more as guest players. The man behind this is Wajahat Hussain.
A former cricketer for nearly two decades, Hussain wears a dual cap as the President of the Abu Dhabi Cricket Council (ADCC) and the Senior Executive Vice-President of UBL.
Boosted by the presence of the new players, the team won the UBL T20 tournament last month, their first trophy. Hussain spoke to Gulf News explaining the bank's support to the game in the UAE.
Gulf News: How do you look at UBL's support for the game of cricket in the UAE?
Wajahat Hussain: We first needed to get things going for the franchise as a bank and once that was taken care of, we went on to our community objectives. I generally believe that youth, wherever they are, should be supported in getting their energies developed in a positive way. We in a little way have been promoters of cricket.
The UBL registered as a Division Two team about five years ago and you led the team. How did the recruitment of the players come about this season?
I and some former ECB star players like Qazi Ayoub, Shehzad Khan and Naseer Siddiqi were part of the initial UBL side. There has been a huge following for cricket here in the UAE and in Abu Dhabi. And the stage came where we thought we need to support the national team as well. So I guess the trigger came from there.
How many cricket players have been given employment?
Two seasons ago, we roped in Amjad Ali. Midway through this season we signed up UAE national and ECB off-spinner Salman Farooq, ECB left arm spinner Ahmad Raza and middle-order batsman Naeemuddin Eslam who is also an ECB player — all three employed with UBL now. We also signed up three ECB representatives Abdul Rahman, Shoaib Sarwar and Qasim Zubair as guest players.
What did the triumph in the T20 championship mean to you?
As you know, this institution is from Pakistan and has a niche presence which has been growing over last six years. This sort of an institution coming forward to support cricket, having a team and then winning a tournament is very, very special.
As far as we are concerned, it is a start. The desire is there to keep the momentum going. This is quite special because it is a fledgling team. You don't start winning tournaments in a highly competitive scene by just including a few good players. I have always been a firm believer that it has to be a team effort. Individuals don't matter, but cohesion matters.