ABU DHABI // Four years into its existence the Abu Dhabi inter-school tournament is now firmly established as a springboard for unearthing young talent in the emirate.
From two age groups – Under 14 and Under 16 – at the inaugural tournament in 2009/10, an open division was introduced in the following year for any player who is still at school, up to the age of 18.
All the games in the open division and some in the Under 16 section this year will be played on the new Nursery Oval at Zayed Cricket Stadium, giving the young cricketers the opportunity to play at one of the best cricket facilities in the country.
"The Abu Dhabi Cricket Council [ADCC], which conducts the school tournament, has built this incredibly beautiful turf oval to improve the quality of cricket," Mani said. "To groom the youth and develop them to be our future, they need to be given the right infrastructure and now that it has been made available for them.
"We were totally focused to make sure that the right talent gets the right opportunity and the right quality of the facility."
Mani's passion for the sport keeps him involved in the tournament as he continues to be patron of the prize he instituted for the Spirit of Cricket that is presented to the team deemed to have upheld the traditions of the game.
The Spirit of Cricket award comes with a Dh10,000 cash prize which is divided among three teams, one from each age group.
"I have always been passionate about the game and the passion doesn't die with [leaving] the position," he said.
"I always supported the Spirit of Cricket which is a logo that I will leave behind as a legacy. It is a lifetime award and I will always be there to support it."
Wajahat Husain, the president of ADCC, paid tribute to Mani for his contribution to the game, particularly at the junior level.
"What one could not have foreseen is his fortitude and the vision, that all culminated in what it is today because I was a witness to his heartfelt passion to promote junior cricket," he said.
"The academy was structured and what it is today is again a lot of credit to him.
"The turf grounds are there as an integral part of Abu Dhabi and definitely the youngsters participating in the inter-school tournaments will be forerunners for their rights to play on it."
Last year, the Cambridge High School won the open division with Abu Dhabi Indian School crowned the Under 16 champions and the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Pakistan School winning the Under 14 title.
The tournament is scheduled to start this week.
SB Dey, the cricket coach and master in charge for physical education at the Abu Dhabi Indian School, said interest from the pupils wanting to participate in the tournament has been overwhelming. "We have participated in the tournament from its inception and now it has become a permanent event in our sporting calendar," he said.
"With a competition to look forward to every year, the interest has also grown remarkably as cricket is one of the most popular sports among our pupils.
"The interest to play in the school team has grown so much so we now have to conduct inter-class competitions to select the squads. All this augurs well for the development of the sport."
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