x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Formula of students and cricket in schools adding up

The inter-school cricket tournament is proving a huge favourite with everyone.

Cambridge High School's U16 team celebrate after a match.
Cambridge High School's U16 team celebrate after a match.

As an only child, Denver Bopaiah was not used to hearing the word "no". However, he could not come up with a counter argument when his parents decided he should give up cricket and focus instead on academics.

Fast forward three years, and Bopaiah has finally convinced his parents to let him balance his passion for the sport with his school work.

"I really looked forward for my time in cricket at the Abu Dhabi academy, and it was really heartbreaking when I was told I had to stop [and] to concentrate on my studies when I reached year 10," said Bopaiah, 17, now a 12th-grade student at the Abu Dhabi Indian School (ADIS).

"The school started an inter-house tournament last year and I got a start again, and this time my parents didn't object."

Bopaiah was appointed the first-team captain and led them to the final of the Abu Dhabi inter-school tournament, organised by the Abu Dhabi Cricket Council (ADCC). They will face the International School of Choueifat at Zayed Cricket Stadium on April 8, after the schools' CBSE examinations.

When he finishes high school, Bopaiah has a choice of attending either Purdue or Minnesota universities in the United States to study chemical engineering.

He has also done an advance search to find out where cricket is played in America. "Every state has a cricket association, and I am sure I can find a team to play," he said.

Bopaiah began playing in UAE parks before joining the MCC-Zayed Cricket Academy when it was inaugurated in December 2005.

"There were no tournaments at the time, but I had opportunities to play for the academy team against some of the visiting English schools at the Zayed stadium," he said. "I am glad now there are competitions, and all the boys at the school are eagerly looking forward for the matches."

Anson Quadros, 14, is one of three players, along with Mohammed Israfil and Nithin Samuel, to play in all three of the Indian School's age-group teams - the Under 14s, Under 16s and the open age group.

Quadros, a medium pace bowler and left-handed batsman, won the MCC-Zayed Cricket Academy's Most Promising Young Cricketer award in 2008/09, and toured England with the academy's junior team for the Arabian Cricket Festival tournament staged by the Sussex County Cricket Club Academy last year.

"Academics are paramount for a child, but I believe sport supplements the overall development," said his father, Nelson. "He loves cricket and has done pretty well so far. As a parent, I can only encourage and provide him with all the support. I am even willing to send him for specialised training and, if he is talented enough, to pursue it to the next level. The opportunity to play for the school team is the first step and certainly a significant addition to his CV."

The Abu Dhabi Indian School, which has more than 5,500 students, reached all three finals of the inter-school tournament. They were beaten by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Arab Pakistan School in the U14 final but beat Cambridge High School in the U16 final.

"Cricket is arguably the most popular sport in the school, but unfortunately, there were no organised competitions for them until the ADCC came up with this inter-school tournament, which was a fantastic new development," said SB Dey, the physical education teacher and coach at the Indian School.

He said the school was first invited to play in the U14 and U16 tournaments in the 2009/10 school year.

"We were not really prepared for it, yet we participated," Dey said. "Now that we know this tournament is going to be a regular one, we have started preparing for it.

"We started after school training for cricket and introduced the inter-class and inter-house tournaments. The response has been overwhelming. There are more than 500 students to select a squad of 25 [for the open age group team].

"The best 15 are selected for the school team. There is a lot of competition for places and that's how we have got strong squads. A majority of them attend training sessions at the academy, but we have increased the training time at school, so everyone gets more training.

"The inter-school tournament is really an exciting new project and never have we experienced such wonderful development, where everything from the kits to the facilities are provided free of charge.

"We are extremely grateful for the ADCC."

Dr BR Shetty, the chairman of the school's board of governors and a past president of the ADCC, said the school's infrastructure will be upgraded this summer with a multi-purpose sports facility.

"We had this plan to upgrade the sporting facilities anyway," said Shetty, who also founded the academy during his time as the ADCC president. "The new facility includes an AstroTurf pitch for football that can also be converted to a cricket ground. It will also have a new synthetic athletic track around it.

"Cricket is also a game I was quite passionate on and personally was involved. The schools' cricket in Abu Dhabi is a big step forward in developing the game."

Clemente De Souza, the vice-principal, considers sport to be important in the overall progress of the students.

"It is not an extra-curricular activity anymore," he said. "Sport is an integral part of the all-round development of the students. Nowadays, when students go for higher education or to entrance to the universities abroad, they look at the co-curricular activities of the students. So playing cricket or to excel in any other sport holds a definite advantage.

"The inter-school tournament is fantastic. All kids look forward to this since it was introduced. We have had a lot of success in this second staging of the tournament, but that's not all. It is the opportunity to play for the school team."

The ADIS provides sports as part of the curriculum, and students regularly participate in the CBSE All-India national competitions in athletics, swimming, badminton and table tennis.