Kids who are naturally gifted take to their chosen sport as ducks to water. Jonathan Figy belongs to that category.
He had all the markings of a cricket prodigy when he joined the MCC-Zayed Cricket Academy in September 2010 and the boy wonder, still only 11, underlined that promise with an unbeaten century in his first domestic age-group competition.
Playing in an Under 13 tournament organised by the Sharjah Cricket Council, Jonathan had the onlookers in awe with his impressive stroke play against the Youth Cricket Academy.
The left-handed opener smashed 113 not out and followed it up with 26 not out in his team's 10-wicket win over Springs Cricket Academy while chasing a modest 52, both at the Al Dhaid Cricket Village.
Today, he will meet the Desert Cubs in the final group match at the Sharjah stadium.
"Jonathan was spotted as a potential talent by our coaching staff in his very first day," said Qazi Ayub, the coach. "He was nine when he joined the academy and having seen him we transferred him to a senior group.
"I don't know how he got his basics so perfect without any formal training but he needed very little coaching and time to adjust and adapt to learn the finer points.
"In cricket there is no evidence to suggest he was born with the skills but we found him to be excellent in all aspects of the game. It was a matter of fine-tuning his techniques and skills."
The game exposure Jonathan had before joining the academy consisted of playing tennis-ball cricket with his friends in the vacant parking area next to his apartment on Airport Road in Abu Dhabi.
"I have always encouraged my kids to play some sport mainly because I believe it teaches them core values in life and to keep them fit and in good shape," said Jonathan's father, Figy John.
Figy and his wife, Sisy, were living in Dubai when Jonathan was born, and moved to Abu Dhabi when he was four. The boy has a younger sister, Hannah, who plays badminton.
"He used to join the boys in the vicinity to play tennis-ball cricket in the car park and it was at this time I suggested he join an academy," his father said.
"I approached the Zayed Academy in June and they told me to bring him in September when the new season begins. I have no clue how good he was but here is where his cricketing skills and talent was spotted."
In August, Jonathan was selected for the academy's U13 tour to England. He travelled as the baby of the team and played in all five games in the Sussex County Cricket Club Sports Arabia tournament.
"It was like a whole new world opened up for me," Jonathan said. "I was very excited when I was named in the tour squad. It was my first tournament as well."
He batted in the middle order and made a top score of 17 against Durham and, above all, says he has learnt from the experience.
"To play against foreign teams in a foreign country was a learning curve for me," he said. "I was a bit nervous at the beginning but my confidence grew after the first game. I feel I am taking that momentum forward."
Figy John recollects the "change in him" came after the family got together at a friend's house to watch the World Cup Twenty20 final in 2007, which India won.
"He was six and may have not have understood what was going on but I think the excitement caught him and it was from that time he showed a desire to play," he said.
According to his father, Jonathan spent a lot of time watching cricket with his grandmother Sara, who would update him on the scores and guide him as to how the game was played.
"He started to emulate what was happening on TV. And once threw a paperweight that hit my wife in the face, just missing her eye," Figy John said.
Jonathan's role model is Sachin Tendulkar and his ambition is to get somewhat closer to achieving the feats of the Indian legend.
Jonathan also bowls left-arm medium pace and is an excellent fielder at any position.
"I want to go as far as possible in cricket, perhaps pursue a playing career," said the grade 6 pupil of Abu Dhabi Indian School.
"At the moment my objective is to play and perform for the academy and the school teams."
Ayub thinks Jonathan is another jewel in the crown of the Abu Dhabi academy.
Several youngsters from the Zayed Cricket Academy since its establishment in 2005 have gone on to represent the UAE in age-group competitions.
Mohammed Riyan, now 14, a diminutive opening batsman who was a pupil of the Abu Dhabi academy since its inception, travelled to England on a cricket scholarship from Ardingly College earlier in the year.
"Jonathan has got a bright future ahead of him if he continues to work as he has been doing in the past one year," Ayub said.
"Unlike a few years ago, now these youngsters have got the best infrastructure, facilities, and the opportunities made available for them. They should take advantage to make most of it.
"They are now getting to play at the international grounds and this augurs well for the sport in the country."
Amjad Javed, Abdul Rahman, Naeemuddin Aslam, Ahmed Raza, Qasim Zubair and Asim Saeed are cricketers born and brought up in the UAE who have gone on to represent the country's senior national team.
Jonathan seems to be on track to emulate their success or even go a step ahead, should he decide on a professional career in India.
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