x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Sport

Dilawar Mani, the CEO of Abu Dhabi Cricket Club and the president of the Abu Dhabi Cricket Council, talks about his game.

AD200810361008790AR
AD200810361008790AR

Dilawar Mani, the CEO of Abu Dhabi Cricket Club and the president of the Abu Dhabi Cricket Council, talks about his game. I am one of three brothers and I remember when I was seven or eight we were all passionate cricket fans. At home we had a very nice lounge and a garage where we played every day. We lived in a central place in Rawapindi, Pakistan, and all of our friends from school and everyone else we knew joined us.

I fancied myself as a batsman. My brother Ehsan, who was formerly president of the International Cricket Council president, was a very good left arm seamer. My eldest brother Rahman was the most passionate of all, even though he didn't take it up at school or club level. I played for the Forman Christian College. I went there because my mother's eldest brother had built it and he wanted someone in the family to go there. It turned out to be the best thing for me, because I made it on to the college team.

Unfortunately, I broke my leg in a nasty motorcycle accident in 1965 and my leg was in plaster for two years. I left for England in 1970 to start work in accountancy. I played for the Standard Chartered Bank in my first year and later for Hampstead Cricket Club, where I played my best cricket. I continued to play club cricket when I went back to Pakistan in 1976 and also formed a team for my company.

I came to Abu Dhabi in 1980 and played for Adnoc Fod and Al Futtaim, and later formed my own team with UTS Carrier. I wasn't a star performer but I contributed to every game with my leg spin. I was promoted to regional director for finance at work in 1996, and that basically ended my cricket career, but I still watch and follow the game passionately and I have the most wonderful collection of Wisden Cricketers' Almanacks that date back to the Fifties.

I retired in 2005 and started a business with my wife, Rana. The following year, Omar al Askari, the vice chairman of the Abu Dhabi Cricket Club, asked me to assist in the first India-Pakistan, two-match series to inaugurate the Zayed Cricket Stadium. There were some hiccups in the organisation of the event because the then president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, was attending. It all happened on the day of the match. It was quite sudden and was not really pre-planned. The state security took over and the plans for the day went out the window.

After that event, the president of the Abu Dhabi Cricket Council indicated he was ready to hand over responsibility. Omar asked me if I would be interested. I wasn't involved in administration before and I went straight in at the deep end and I realised just how huge the following for cricket is here. In the first year, I focused on corporate governance and putting a solid structure in place. Today the Abu Dhabi Cricket Council or Club is a very self-contained and self-sufficient organisation. We are trying to get Emiratis involved and set up cricket schools.

We also want to get as many international matches as possible in Abu Dhabi. One major success was the recent Pakistan-West Indies series with the involvement of the two national companies, Etisalat and Etihad. At the moment my main focus is to see how many venues are available and how we can best facilitate international games, not only in Abu Dhabi, but in Dubai and Sharjah as well. There are three venues that could host a Twenty20 Champions Trophy, an Asia Cup or a Twenty20 World Cup. These are opportunities. The ICC allocates them and although the next six years are already decided, we can work on a six-year programme. It will be the UAE's part in globalising the sport.

As told to Amith Passela