x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Marsh's work on academy worth the wait

Dubai-based set-up has two playing ovals, 38 floodlit pitches and a seven-lane indoor facility.

The pride was evident on Rodney Marsh’s face as the former Australian wicketkeeper took officials around the Global Cricket Academy which he worked on for four years.
The pride was evident on Rodney Marsh’s face as the former Australian wicketkeeper took officials around the Global Cricket Academy which he worked on for four years.

Dubai // In the four years since he was recruited to be the International Cricket Council Global Cricket Academy's (GCA) director of cricket, Rod Marsh has had to fill a variety of different roles to keep himself busy. The Australian Test great will hope the job of tour guide will be the last diversion he has to make, and that he can return to his vocation as a cricket coach starting this morning.

Marsh was a picture of contentment as he showed a tour group around the new premises at Dubai Sports City, as the GCA was officially opened for business yesterday. He has a right to feel proud. The GCA was build largely to his own specifications, based on a knowledge of cricket academies which is probably unrivalled in the world. "Those nets will replicate Asian pitches on the last day of an Asian Test match, which I think will be an absolute winner," Marsh said, pointing at two nets designed to assist spin bowlers.

The GCA has two full-size playing ovals, 38 floodlit outdoor pitches, as well as a vast seven-lane indoor facility, which is Hawkeye-equipped. Soil has been imported from a variety of cricket-playing nations in order to replicate different playing conditions around the globe. For example, four of the outdoor nets will only be in use for as little as three months of the year, as the rye grass that is designed to replicate the playing conditions in the UK does not grow in the severest heat of the UAE.

The indoor centre borrows many design features from those at Loughborough University in the UK, which houses England's national academy, of which Marsh was formerly the director. The indoor school is also connected to the main database of video footage in the adjacent ICC offices. "If a touring team such as Australia was passing through here, they could immediately call up footage of MS Dhoni [the India captain] batting, for example," Marsh said.

The project had been beset by delays, which was perhaps hardly surprising given the scope of the ambitions of Dubai Sports City's creators. "As the saying goes, all good things are worth waiting for," Sharad Pawar, the president of the ICC, said. "This Global Cricket Academy has been worth the wait. "It will provide a pathway for the world's current and emerging international players to excel." The GCA is owned by Sports City, whose three partners, Abdul Rahman Bukhatir, Abdul Rahman Falaknaz and Khalid al Zarooni, conceived and funded the idea. The ICC will manage the facility and its operations. "The academy is world class and will provide top training conditions for elite cricketers from all over the world," said Bukhatir.

The national team will be among the first to play a competitive match at the campus. pradley@thenational.ae