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Mohammed Riyan, 14-year-old cricketer, was at one point flying back from England to Abu Dhabi on weekends to play cricket while he waited for the UK season to begin.
Mohammed Riyan, 14-year-old cricketer, was at one point flying back from England to Abu Dhabi on weekends to play cricket while he waited for the UK season to begin.

A busman's holiday for schoolboy and up-and-coming cricket standout Mohammed Riyan

Mohammed Riyan, 14, is currently on scholarship at Ardingly in England and, after having to fly back to Abu Dhabi on weekends to play cricket, is looking forward to the season starting there, writes Amith Passela.

The first schoolboy from the UAE to receive a cricket scholarship from an English school is about to play his first games for his new team on a journey he hopes will conclude with a place with a county side.

"I want to score as many runs as possible for my school, and in the very long term I wish I can find a place to play for an English county team and continue my career as a cricketer," said Mohammed Riyan, 14, who was born in Abu Dhabi to Indian parents.

Riyan was part of a MCC-Zayed Cricket Academy squad that travelled to a Sussex County Cricket Club Under 13 tournament last summer, where he was spotted by Ardingly School.

The youngster has a busy schedule for his season, starting with a first game against St Bede's on April 20, followed by 18 matches against schools and academies, and topped off with a Twenty20 tournament.

"Obviously, to make a good impression and to continue scoring runs as I have done in the past two months in the UAE would be my objective," he said.

Riyan has prepared for the England season - which runs during the spring and summer months - by spending his holidays playing in four competitions, from February to April, for the Zayed Academy. Initially, he travelled from London to Abu Dhabi, and back, over the weekends before the month-long school holidays began in March.

He was part of the Zayed Academy team that won the ARCH U19 trophy and was runner-up in the U16 version in the past two weeks.

An opening batsman, Riyan scored 209 runs in four innings in the U16 tournament, but got to bat only twice in the U19 section, coming in the lower order.

Riyan has also played two games in the Shyam Bhatia Cricket for Care U15 tournament, conducted by the Dubai Cricket Council, scoring 28 and 75.

"The games played in the UAE, particularly against the English schools in the ARCH trophy, have been an excellent platform to start my first season in England,"said Riyan, who will play in all three age groups - the U14, U16, and an open-age category - for Ardingly, where he has been studying since September.

His teammates at the English school include Abidine Sakande, the England U19 pace bowler, and his Sussex teammate, Harry Clark.

"I have had a month's indoor training at Ardingly before the school break in March and that helped me in the competitions when I returned to Abu Dhabi," Riyan said.

"I spent one hour batting against the bowlers, including Abidine and Harry, and another hour on the bowling machine.

"I had a month's training this way when I returned to Abu Dhabi. This is the best preparation I could have wished for. It was a holiday spent well for me.

"I am thankful to the Zayed Academy for providing me the opportunity to play in all the competitions. This is where I started my cricket and this place will always be close to my heart."

He is coached at Ardingly by Keith and Ashley Wright, the father and the brother, respectively, of the England international Luke Wright.

Riyan joined the Zayed Academy when it was established in December 2005 and he was the winner of the Most Promising Young Cricketer award a year later.

Kabir Khan, the former UAE coach and now in charge of Afghanistan, was impressed by the youngster when he saw him batting in the Sharjah U16 final in which he scored 41 not out. "This little guy is immensely talented and I seem him as a good cricketer who can make it to the top flight," said Kabir, who watched the youngster batting while the Afghan team were training at the Sharjah Stadium.

Mohammed Zaheer, Mohammed's father and the player-manager of the Etihad Airways team, is putting no pressure on his son..

"He is still young to decide on his future," Zaheer Riyan said, "but cricket being his passion, I would like to think his interest and love to play the game will not diminish until he reaches a point where he can decide his future."

apassela@thenational.ae

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