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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

'He caught the eye of every coach': Jonathan Figy the latest UAE-based cricket prodigy to take up UK scholarship

  • The left-handed opener, 15, from Zayed Cricket Academy joins Winchester College on a 92 per cent scholarship next month
  • Currently on the shortlist of 24 players preparing for the Asia Cup pre-qualifier in Kuwait from October 10 to 26
Young cricketer Jonathan Figy practices at the Zayed Cricket Stadium. Antonie Robertson / The National
Young cricketer Jonathan Figy practices at the Zayed Cricket Stadium. Antonie Robertson / The National

One of the brightest young cricketing prospects to emerge from the UAE in recent times is about to embark on an exciting new journey to play in England.

Jonathan Figy will join Winchester College in Hampshire on a 92.5 per cent cricket scholarship and is set to leave for England next month.

A left-handed batsman, the 15-year-old has for the past five years been consistently the best player in his age-group cricket in the country. He first enrolled at the Zayed Cricket Academy in 2010 and has been a prolific scorer for both his academy and Abu Dhabi Indian School.

Playing in three different age-group divisions – Under 14s all the way up to U19 – he amassed more than 2,076 runs at an average of 70-plus in 2015/16 and crossed 1,625 at an average of 60-plus in 2016/17.

Jonathan was picked for the UAE U19 World Cup pre-qualifiers in Malaysia last September. He made 132 in four games, including two half centuries, both against Hong Kong.

Jonathan Figy poses with his bat at Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Antonie Robertson / The National
Jonathan Figy poses with his bat at Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Antonie Robertson / The National

However, his ticket to England was earned on the 140 not out for Zayed Academy against the visiting Winchester College U17 at the Nursery Oval in Abu Dhabi on February 2016.

That knock impressed the visiting school team's coach Paul Grover, who returned the following day to watch Jonathan play for the academy against another team while Winchester were in action at the adjoining Oval-1.

“He [Grover] came over to me and started a conversation, asking me if he would be interested to have Jonathan enrolled at Winchester,” said Figy John, Jonathan's father.

“I told him we couldn’t even think about sending Jonathan to study abroad simply because of the finances involved. It was absolutely inconceivable for us.”

Grover said he would speak to the college administrators on Jonathan's behalf. After almost a year of back and forth with the college, Jonathan's father, a pasture of a congregation that meets at St Andrews church Abu Dhabi, finally received the good news.

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“I received a communication from the school five weeks after that game and the correspondence went on for nearly a year before we received the offer letter,” said Figy John.

“Meanwhile, Jonathan had a few Skype interviews and an entrance test from the head master on the subjects he had selected for Grade 11: physics, chemistry and mathematics.

“We were really surprised when he received the offer letter."

So was Jonathan, who turns 16 on August 25. “I couldn’t believe until my dad showed me the offer letter,” he said.

It wasn’t the first time Jonathan had been offered a cricket scholarship. Ardingly School had sounded him out four years ago but his parents thought he was too young to be on his own in a boarding school overseas.

“At that time we felt Jonathan needed to be with the family as he was too young to manage on his own,” said Figy senior.

“Also from a cricketing perspective we thought it would be good if he can play more and gauge himself.

“Over this period of time he has been able to work hard and improve his cricket further and perform for his teams. We are now better placed to take a decision as we know for sure he can handle things on his own.”

Jonathan is currently on the shortlist of 24 players preparing for the Asia Cup pre-qualifier in Kuwait from October 10 to 26.

Andy Russell, the development officer of Emirates Cricket Board, is keen to have Jonathan involved in their programmes as much as possible until he leaves for England.

Young cricketer Jonathan Figy practices at the Zayed Cricket Stadium. Antonie Robertson / The National
Young cricketer Jonathan Figy practices at the Zayed Cricket Stadium. Antonie Robertson / The National

“He has been training with the ECB’s coaching staff since the squad was shortlisted,” said Russell when asked of Jonathan’s place in the U19 squad.

“Jonathan has played the whole season to justify his place in the side. But it’s up to the ECB to decide and take a call.”

In England, the Dubai-born Indian teenager will have an opportunity to showcase his talents at Hampshire County Cricket Club on the recommendations of his coach at Winchester.

Jonathan follows others from Zayed Academy – Mohammed Riyan, Huzaifah and Hanzalah Khan, Yodhin Punja, Sachin Jha and Justin D’Souza – who joined English schools on cricket scholarships.

Qazi Ayub, the head coach of Zayed Academy, believes Jonathan can make the grade wherever he plays.

“He caught the eye of every coach from the time he joined the academy,” he said.

“Obviously we’ll miss him as a member of the first team but he’s leaving for his own good and I’m sure he will do well whether it be school or club cricket. We can only wish him well.”