DUBAI With more than a decade of experience, the Young Talent Cricket Academy (YTCA) has grown immensely by nurturing many young cricketers in the UAE.

Making a humble beginning in 1998, the academy now has seven centres (five in Dubai and two in Sharjah) training over 300 kids who are constantly monitored by 10 coaches.

All the centres run seven days a week with two sessions, both morning and evening, during the weekends. “We run the training sessions all seven days. This helps the kids to keep the rhythm going without a break,” said YTCA director Shahzad Altaf. “Sunday is a special day since we have reserved it to train talented kids. All week, me and the coaches go to every centre and watch the kids closely. Once we spot a talented youngster we ask him to attend the Sunday training sessions where they are given additional sessions which will further help them hone their skills,” added Altaf, who represented the UAE in the 1996 World Cup.

The academy also stresses on the importance of match exposure  and never misses an opportunity to provide the kids with sufficient matches. Other than hosting several tournaments, they usually conduct matches between themselves during most of the weekends. “We have qualified coaches who know exactly what is required for a budding talent to understand the game. We make our boys play a lot of matches and organise  tournaments to provide the boys the right exposure,” said Altaf.

Two tournaments are organised in a year. The first one is the Nissan Gulf Cup which runs for a month and has seven different age categories other than a university category. The other tournament is the Four Nation Cup which has boys representing their respective countries – India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the UAE.

“The Nissan Gulf Cup attracts over 56 teams with around 900 students participating in the event. In the Four Nation, we
run trials for all the boys based in the UAE and pick the best for this tournament. Depending on whichever country they hail from they will play for that respective country. The remaining talented boys will form the UAE team,” said Altaf.

The academy has also invited famous international coaches providing a further boost to the kids. Coaches like the late Bob Woolmer, Jeffrey Dujon, Dav Whatmore and Geoff Cook have visited the academy in the past. The academy also focuses heavily on foreign tours yearly to the United Kingdom, India, Sri Lanka, Bahrain and South Africa. Altaf said: “The boys get to play in different conditions and are exposed to quality teams. For example when they go to the UK they get to play in seaming conditions which they can never experience in the UAE. It’s indeed an exciting  opportunity for the budding kids since doing well there will boost their confidence.”

The academy is also developing its own grounds. The facility at the Skyline University College in Sharjah which was opened recently has excellent turf and practice wickets. “We are thankful to a lot of support received from many
individuals and groups and they have played a key role in our success in the UAE,” he added.