Dubai: I would like to see the UAE become a Test-playing nation, says Mr Cricket UAE Anis Sajan, who received a top Indian award for his contribution to cricket.
Sajan wears many hats - he is a businessman, philanthropist, administrator, cricket team owner, sports enthusiast and sports fan. But his passion for cricket is matchless. And that passion didn’t go unnoticed as he has been awarded Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Bharat Puraskar Award.
“I have been in this country [the UAE] for 27 years, and whatever I am today, it is thanks to this wonderful country. I had started two-day and three-day cricket matches with the idea to take cricket to a different level; I didn’t want UAE cricket to be just a Twenty20 format [playing nation]. I now want to see UAE on par with Bangladesh and Afghanistan, as a Test-playing nation, not as an associate nation like today.
“We have got all the infrastructure, be it the ICC Cricket Academy or the Dubai International Stadium or the Sharjah Cricket Stadium or the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi, or even the grounds in Ajman. We also have the talent. I sincerely hope one day I can see the UAE on the top cricketing map.”
Speaking on his award, Sajan said: “I feel proud on receiving the award. I have been based out of the UAE for the last 27 years and to get such a high-profile award in the name of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam [former President of India] is a testimony for my contribution to cricket here. It means a lot to me.”
Anis Sajan’s passion for the sport began — like the many millions in India — after the team under Kapil Dev won the Prudential Trophy in 1983. That triumph by the rank outsiders against the mighty West Indies gave everyone in the country the belief that India could be a force to reckon with, and the game saw a surge in popularity.
His interest in cricket did not stay with batting and bowling on the 'gullies' [bylanes] of Mumbai; he took it to the next level as a commentator for the games in his locality played during the festivals. However, the transformation from being a street cricketer to an analyst of the game was achieved by constantly upgrading his knowledge by listening to commentaries and analysis of greats like Sunil Gavaskar and Ian Chappell. He also learnt the nuances and tricks of the trade from legends like Stephen Fleming, who was the coach of his team in the T10 League, and 'Mr Cricket' Michael Hussey after whom Sajan had named his page.
Passion for cricket prompted Sajan to launch a team in 1996. His team Danube Lions went on to win many titles and tournaments in the UAE leagues.
I employed 30 to play cricket, not as a weekend sport but in a professional way. I wanted to take cricket to another level. So I had people from Sri Lanka and Pakistan playing for my team. Players like Fakhar Zaman, Asad Shafiq and Yasir Shah were all part of my team. And today, I feel proud to see them representing their country
“I employed 30 to play cricket, not as a weekend sport but in a professional way. I wanted to take cricket to another level. So I had people from Sri Lanka and Pakistan playing for my team. Players like Fakhar Zaman, Asad Shafiq and Yasir Shah were all part of my team. And today, I feel proud to see them representing their country.
“For 18 years, I had one cricket team for indoor events and two for outdoor tournaments. That is how I live my passion.”
He also credited Gulf News for giving him the opportunity to take his passion to a different level.
“After I decided to close down my team because I had enough trophies, I got an opportunity thanks to Gulf News where I could express my passion with articles and video chats during the Indian Premier League and the Twenty20 World Cup in UAE. I can’t thank Gulf News enough because of them, I am more known as Mr Cricket UAE even in India. People now look forward to reading my columns and that’s the best thing that I have achieved.”