For a cricketer, or for that matter any sportsman, a key factor that could contribute to their growth is constant encouragement. They need a goal to work towards, and very often it would be to represent their national team.

For a cricketer, the opportunity to don his nation’s cap is special. In the case of an expatriate, wearing the cap of the country he lives in, and represents, is equally special.

The journey towards that goal needs encouragement and that’s one of the reasons all sports bodies recognise them through annual awards.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) encourages cricketers through their prestigious ICC annual awards.

This is done to further boost cricketers to perform and at the same time encourage youngsters to aim for that award.

Many state cricket bodies too have annual awards. For example, in Mumbai, winning Mumbai Cricket Associations’ annual School Cricketer of the Year is very special.

In the UAE, the annual awards to boost cricketers was initiated by a cricket enthusiast Shyam Bhatia.

He has been holding this event for the past 19 years. If not for him, cricketers here would never have won any appreciation for their efforts in domestic cricket.

Every time a local cricketer who has done exceptionally well in the bigger arena has been interviewed, the player has often remarked about being a winner at the Bhatia awards.

Outstanding performance in an international arena can happen only if that player is motivated to be the best.

If not for the Bhatia awards, some of the players who had scored prolifically or produced great spells in domestic cricket would never have had an award.

What makes the Bhatia awards special is that he has had legends of the game and past World Cup winning captains to present these awards.

Even in Test playing nations, their annual awards have never been presented by such an array of legends.

This award has made it possible for a cricketer in UAE to receive their recognition from greats like Viv Richards and Sunil Gavaskar.

Bhatia has never hesitated to add more categories to his awards. When women’s cricket began to flourish, he created a category for the best among them. Similarly for umpires in the UAE who land up doing a thankless job, the only recognition for being the best has been through this award.

The UAE has seen many tournaments being launched with a lot of fanfare, but they seem to vanish within three or four years.

That’s because the enthusiasm of those who launched the tournament faded away with time. This is where the Bhatia awards remain unique for its honesty of purpose and continuity.