Mahendra Singh Dhoni at the launch of his academy in Dubai two years back. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Dubai: Remember the Mahendra Singh Dhoni academy or the one launched by ace Indian spinner Ravichandran Ashwin in Dubai a few years back? The UAE had seen the birth of a surfeit of cricket academies named after renowned cricketers in recent years with an idea towards fuelling the dreams of expat children — but they all have closed down.

The Dhoni academy, Robin Singh Academy named after the former Indian all-rounder, Ashwin’s Gen-Next Academy have all become defunct now. When Gulf News contacted these academies, their response was that they have been “temporarily shut down”. Former England cricketers Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff, Sri Lankan great Aravinda de Silva all had lent their names and announced plans for their academy here, but none of the academies linked to these stars are functioning.

Dhoni academy was launched in 2017 — creating many types of wickets and facilities at Springdales School in Al Quoz. A source in the academy told Gulf News: “We have temporarily closed down the academy as some contractual obligations were not fulfilled. We will soon shift the location from this venue and start afresh.”

The source also revealed that Dhoni will still be linked to the academy when they restart. “We have closed down not due to issues with Dhoni but due to problem with the premises. We are trying to get a ground specially for the academy soon,” he added.

Unlike the Dhoni academy where the legendary wicketkeeper, mostly busy with international cricket commitments, could not personally attend to the students, Robin Singh personally coached the players by locating himself in Dubai. He even created a huge facility at the Iranian Club.

When contacted, Singh said: “I have temporarily closed my academy, but I will be there in 2020. The details of the new location and timings will be disclosed later.”

Ashwin, who enjoys coaching and personally interacted with his coaches at the Gen-Next academy in Chennai during breaks from his international cricket, had linked up with Kings School in Al Barsha and started the Gen-Next Kings Cricket Academy in 2017.

However, it’s been business as usual for the time-tested academies here — with no famous cricketer on board. Most of these academies fly in legendary cricketers for short camps, but never have linked their academy’s name to the stars.

Gopal Jasapara, Head Coach of G Force Cricket Academy, said: “Cricket academy is all about passion and dedication. Coaching academies doesn’t need any banner to run them. Legends never get involved with day-to-day cricket activities of the academy as it is a commercial venture for them. It is good to have short camps with legends and not use his name for day-to-day cricket.”

Presley Polonnowiita, Head Coach of Desert Cubs Academy, said: “A big star will make only a short trip or two per year though they allow their names to be attached to an academy. The local entity here want continuity to the ideas of the star player and want long-term plans without lapses. This was lacking in most of the mergers and ventures and hence, people got disappointed when they did not get the expected quality.

“Academies, which are successful here, are those run by owners as head coaches as they are also closely connected with the local fraternity. Cricket lovers in the UAE are knowledgable than before and look for long-term benefits than instant glory. It will be healthy sign if competitive players can emerge through hard work of certain high standard academies here,” he added.

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Ravi Ashwin signs bats for the trainees during the launch of Gen-Next Cricket Academy in Dubai. Image Credit: Gulf News archive