ABU DHABI // After the revamp at the top of the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB), the newly-appointed chief executive Dilawar Mani is starting work at the bottom - cricket in schools. Mani already had the seeds of an idea in his head. All he needed were the optimum conditions required to plant and nurture the plan into a ground-breaking scheme on the local junior cricket scene.
Mani said: "Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak [the Minister of Higher Education and Chairman of ECB] has strong focus on the development of junior cricket to ensure that the UAE can grow its youth to compete at the international levels. "He has a keen interest in the operations of the ECB and he wants the affairs to be managed with high standards of corporate governance, and complete unification of cricket formats and playing conditions across all regions."
"We have already done the groundwork to start schools cricket in Abu Dhabi and this will go ahead as scheduled from the new semester in September. "This is an area that had been long neglected and I am glad we finally have a programme to get this off the ground. Some schools have already indicated their willingness to join and we will approach all others in due course to encourage them to field teams in the Under 12, 14, 16 and 19 age groups as recognised by the International Cricket Council (ICC)."
Mani's new role entrusts him with a wider role evolving strategies to develop the sport, particularly in introducing the game to Emiratis, promoting women's cricket and unifying the governance across all regional councils. "There are a number of issues to be addressed, which we will do in due course. The new board will be meeting soon to discuss and implement the new guidelines and the plan of action," Mani added.
Among the areas of concern will be the decline of Division One cricket and the failure to attract Emiratis to a sport that is widely popular among the largely expatriate population. "There is no dearth in the interest and the game's popularity. But we need to work harder to improve the quality of the players and attract the Emiratis, which we haven't been able to do. "One of the priorities is to bring in the indigenous people involved in the game. And obviously we'll have to work out on a new formula to attract the Emiratis.
"We need to start building for the future and I hope my appointment will bring a period of stability and achieve the long-term ambitions in further promoting and developing cricket in the UAE." Mani felt his actions will speak louder than his words. "I want to create an excellent working relationship with the regional councils and concentrate on the future." Mani became the president of the Abu Dhabi Cricket Council three years ago after Dr BR Shetty stepped down following the opening of the Zayed Stadium when it hosted its first international ODI series between India and Pakistan in April 2006. Mani has played cricket in his native Pakistan, England and in Abu Dhabi, where he has resided for more than two decades. His elder brother Ehsan Mani was a former ICC president.