Sharjah: The local cricket academies have played their part to generate enough talent pool in the UAE, according to a veteran official of the country. Mazhar Khan, General Secretary of Sharjah Cricket Council and General Manager at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, told Gulf News the academies have acted as the pipeline of talent for the national team, who are taking on Australia in what would be their first-ever official Twenty20 match against the yellow shirts in Abu Dhabi on Monday.

“The road has been a long one and we rejoice at this historic moment in UAE cricket. I doubt we would have been at this juncture without all the hard work we have put in the development of this sport here. I have the highest regard for the contributions being made by the various academies in the UAE,” Khan said.

“Over the years, these academies have made a major contribution in the progress of cricket. Today we have nearly 30 academies and the good thing is that most of these are being run by ex-cricketers, who have been passing on the latest coaching techniques to our youngsters,” he added.

At the 2014 World Cup Qualifier, the UAE finished second behind Scotland and thus gained ODI and T20I status for the country until 2018. In April this year, the ICC decided to grant full T20I status to all its members meaning that all T20 matches played between the UAE and any other ICC member after January 2019 will be considered a full T20I.

“If we look 20 years back, we can take comfort in the fact that cricket has grown at least ten-fold in the UAE, and much of this success has been due to the academies. We have a much better pool of players across all age groups with some former and current top players imparting various aspects of coaching,” Khan noted.

“What we need now is to have the opportunity to play more cricket across all age categories against the big teams. Only then will we grow. The contribution from the academies is huge, and the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) and the various councils are doing their bit. But we still need to have more competitive cricket at the under-15s, under-17s and under-19s to develop further,” he added.

Khan felt that regular visits from other cricket-playing nations will further raise the profile. “Of late, there are so many international stars are playing here from all across the world. I think that will in itself make us get involved by perhaps playing against their A teams. And now we are playing Australia in the T20I, and that’s a huge step for us. This proves that we are capable of giving good games to full-member countries. Such games will improve our stature and ranking,” he felt.