Shyam Bhatia
Shyam Bhatia (centre) with Sri Lankan greats Mahela Jayawardene (left) and Kumar Sangakkara, who backs his 'Cricket For Care Initiative', during the World Cup. Image Credit: Supplied

London: UAE-based cricket enthusiast Shyam Bhatia could be among the very few in the world who has witnessed all the World Cups since 1975.

While he was just another spectator in the early years, he is now a friend of not only the man who lifted the first edition of the World Cup, Clive Lloyd, but is also well known to all the World Cup winning captains.

Except for Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who is still a player, he has made sure that all World Cup winning captains are flown in to give away the annual Bhatia awards for excellence in UAE cricket.

The legends are well aware of Bhatia’s love for cricket and have supported his efforts to promote the game not only in the UAE, but in different parts of the world as well. Bhatia’s Cricket For Care Foundation, which he set up in 2007, distributes cricket kits to underprivileged children not only in Test playing nations but also in countries where cricket is at its infancy, like in Japan. Ten years ago, when Afghanistan was struggling to make its mark in international cricket, he flew there with cricket kits and distributed them in the remote war-torn areas.

While watching the semi-finals between India and New Zealand, Bhatia was on the lookout for different ways to further boost his Cricket for Care Foundation activities so that more cricketers can avail of the benefits.

“I spoke to many cricketers regarding the foundation and its activities, and many have agreed to support it. I had talks with Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Muttiah Muralitharan and they have expressed their willingness to lend their support in various ways,” said Bhatia, who also supports cricket academies in Dubai, and is presently backing G Force Academy cricketers who are training in England.

All cricket boards around the world have been thankful to Bhatia for his efforts. Since Bhatia never misses any top cricketing events, these boards have honoured him as their guest. Bhatia enjoys watching keen contests with a neutral attitude, but what plays in his mind is to look for different opportunities to spread or promote the game.

He is also on the lookout for memorabilia for his cricket museum, which has been hailed by the visiting cricket personalities from across the world. Most of the great cricketers whom he meets during matches have presented him with special items from their playing days — appreciative of the fact that it is a not merely the fantasy of a successful businessman but his love for cricket through which he attempts to reach out to the lovers of the game.

Bhatia’s future plans include distributing kits in the townships of South Africa and in Indian states of Orissa and Kashmir. He strongly believes his Cricket for Care Foundation is not to promote the game alone but also to spread peace and love among people through the game.