In just two years, more age groups have been added to inter-school cricket, a new ground has been set aside for them and a academy graduate will play for the UAE Under 19 side.
Tournament gives Abu Dhabi Council platform to push cricket
The Abu Dhabi inter-school cricket tournament has taken root in just two years.
The competition was launched by the Abu Dhabi Cricket Council with two age group events in the 2009/10 season.
They have now added an open age category.
The first final in the open age division between Abu Dhabi Indian School and the International School of Choueifat will be played at the Zayed Cricket Stadium on April 8.
"We are looking ahead to making schools cricket a permanent one in our calendar of events and will continue to improve on this school project," said Qazi Ayub, the tournament director and head coach of the MCC-Zayed Cricket Academy.
"When we first started the academy in December 2005, we had no organised competitions. As an academy we played a few friendlies and started playing in inter academy tournaments. Now we want to encourage the schools to take an active part.
"There is no better way to develop the sport than taking them to the schools.
"We have provided them free training facilities with the services of our coaches, and next year we hope to conduct the matches on the turf wicket that will be ready around September."
He said a new ground at the side of the academy is being built exclusively for school cricket. "There is a lot of progress in school cricket and we hope more and more schools will get involved," he said.
The tournaments this year drew 12 schools in the three categories and joining many of those who picked up the finer points of the game from the academy are students who have had no formal training at any level.
Dan D'Souza is one of the outstanding schoolboy cricketers to emerge from the Abu Dhabi academy, and became the first academy graduate to play for the UAE Under 19 when he was selected for the Asian Cricket Council Elite Cup in Thailand in January.
"Cricket is very much a passionate sport for me," said D'Souza, 17, the captain of the International School of Choueifat.
D'Souza, who was selected for a week-long scholarship to train at the English county club Sussexlast year, had to do everything from the logistics, coaching and picking a team to play in the inaugural schools tournament.
"This time we have a new physical education teacher [Billy Graham] and a history teacher [Adam Crossley] helping us," D'Souza said. "They have both played county cricket in England and contributed to the success we have had in reaching the final."
This 11th-grader is thinking about tomorrow, too, and said: if all goes well, I would head to a [UK] university where cricket is played. My father [Rudolph] used to take me to play cricket in the vacant car parks before I joined the Abu Dhabi academy, where I started to play competitive cricket."
D'Souza has managed to balance his time between his school work and cricket.
"Academics are for my future and cricket is pleasure, and to keep me in good shape physically.
"And if I can go one step ahead and play competitive cricket, I will definitely find time for it."