Student Athlete of the Week Ajay Krishnan, a budding off-spinner, wants to follow in the footsteps of his hero Sachin Tendulkar.
Shy lad from Sharjah is a cricket coach's delight
Coming from a cricket-obsessed nation, it would not be difficult to imagine Ajay Krishnan picking up a bat at a very young age in the hope of following in the footsteps of Sachin Tendulkar.
The Indian cricket icon is revered by millions across the globe and has been one of the biggest inspirations for his country's Net Generation. And it is no different for Krishnan.
Born in India, but having spent 12 of the 13 years of his life here in the UAE, the Grade 8 pupil of Sharjah Indian High School dreams of emulating his hero.
"He is very passionate about his cricket and wants to become a cricketer like Sachin," said Anila Kumari, Krishnan's mother.
His father, Dinesh, an engineer, shares the same dream. "I don't want this to be a short-term hobby, but a long-term option," he said. "I want him to go on and have a long, respectable career."
The youngster's other cricket idol is Pakistan's Shoaib Malik, whom he met in 2005. Malik gave Krishnan an autographed cricket bat, which remains his most cherished possession.
Driven by this support from his parents, Krishnan has been making steady progress since first arriving at the Maxtalent cricket academy's grassroots programme four years ago. Today, he is a reliable middle-order batsman and a clever off spin bowler.
He has also run up a few air miles from his cricketing tours, having travelled to Mumbai twice with the Maxtalent team.
This August, he was in England with the Sharjah Cricket Council Academy side.
"Since the conditions were very different for us, we couldn't perform well enough," said Krishnan, who still managed some miserly spells of bowling.
"But we have learnt some very important lessons. We got to know that we have to work on all parts of our game, which we will be doing now onwards."
This ability to introspect, according to Sudhakar Shetty, is one of the youngster's biggest strengths.
"Basically, he is a very hard working fellow," Shetty, the managing director of Maxtalent, said. "He is a bit shy, but you could call him a coach's delight. You tell him anything and he is there.
"He has become a fine off-spinner now. Recently in the inter-academy Twenty20 tournament, he was opening the attack. It was an Under 16 tournament and he is just 13.
"He has also toured with us to Mumbai for two consecutive years, and did well there also."
When Krishnan came to the academy, Shetty said, he was "like any other grassroots-level player".
"He was playing some cricket here and there, but his parents wanted a real exposure to the cricket world," Shetty said.
"So he came as a raw nine year old. Today he is playing in the Under 16 inter-academy tournaments. So you can imagine the leaps and bounds progress he has made."
Shetty does see a bright future for Krishnan, "subject to the same kind of dedication and commitment".
"He is brilliant in academics and as children grow up, most Indian parents prefer they concentrate on their studies rather than anything else," Shetty said. Krishnan's father, however, will not take such a stance.
"Ajay has never given us any reasons to be worried," he said. "He is one of the most brilliant students at his school, and has balanced his studies and cricket really well.
"So we don't really see a problem. We want him to continue playing cricket and go on to achieve many big things."