Years after playing the game at a high level, Adil Mirza, the Phoenix Medicine owner, and Yogi Group's Shiva Pagarani have become the game's money men in the country.
Influential duo moved from UAE cricket's outfields to the boardroom
Adil Mirza shells out half-a-million dirhams a season while Shiva Pagarani spends nearly half that amount for what they say is "the passion" of being involved in UAE cricket.
Mirza is the chief executive and captain of Phoenix Medicine and Pagarani is the chairman and captain of Yogi Group, two of the leading Dubai teams who faced off in the UBL Twenty20 Cup in Abu Dhabi on Sunday night, with Phoenix coming out on top.
"I channel some of the money I earn on cricket as I don't have any other interests, like clubbing and so on," Mirza said, a sentiment shared by Pagarani.
Phoenix Medicine took part in the Pakistan Champions League Twenty20 Cup in Karachi last year and plans are underway to play in that competition this year as well.
"If not we will tour South Africa," Mirza said. "And apart from that, we plan to tour either Sri Lanka or Bangladesh. The team has travelled to Ireland last year. This is a way of rewarding the players."
Mirza, 31, has a waistline of 50 inches and weighs 144kgs, and that is after shedding 10kg recently.
"I was 34 and I weighed around 86kg when I first arrived in Dubai in 2002," he said.
He said it was his inactivity during a two-year period while pursuing his MBA in finance and marketing that he started to gain weight.
When he was younger, Mirza wanted a cricket career and was a candidate for a spot in Pakistan's Under 19 squad. That dream did not materialise and he left his home country for Australia to continue his higher education.
"I don't want to go in to detail but I was really disappointed," he said. "I played Grade 4 cricket for five years in Australia until I landed in Dubai, where I spent two more years to complete my masters and to open my business."
Mirza was encouraged to pursue a cricket career by his older brother Ejaz, himself a first class cricketer in Pakistan.
"He was passionate of his cricket but had to give up due to the work commitments. So he did all that he could to encourage and support me to play cricket," he said.
Having failed to make it to big time cricket, Mirza focused on his education and later, developing his business. He founded his own team in 2005 by recruiting and providing employment to eight first class players from Karachi.
Pagarani was born and grew up in Dubai. Ganeshan, his father, arrived in the UAE in 1964.
Pagarani tried for three years from 1996 to get into the playing XI of Dutca, a construction company team in Dubai. An opportunity arose when one of their players failed to turn up and he ended up taking four wickets with his off-spinners.
That was his last game for that team. "I was not getting a chance to play because they had a healthy side. Then I moved to a team named Shriji XI and it was at this time I thought of starting my own team," he said.
Given the backing of his father, Pagarani founded the Yogi International team in 2001 and renamed it Yogi Group two years later. He has four UAE internationals in his side and says there are a couple more who will be knocking on the door of the national side once they complete the four-year residency rule.
"Cricket is another baby in the house," said Pagarani, who has a daughter Siddhi (11), two sons Darshan (eight) and Shaantanu (six).
Pagarani serves as a committee member of the Dubai Cricket Council. Apart from their own teams, both the cricket enthusiasts have a common desires to contribute to the development of the game in the country.
"They are passionate about their cricket and by doing what they do, they help to raise the level of the domestic game," said Mazhar Khan, the Emirates Cricket Board administrator. "There are also a few others."
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