Desert Cubs Cricket Academy lays turf wickets in Sharjah school

First academy and school in Gulf to build centre turf pitches

Desert Cubs Cricket Academy (DCCA) achieved another landmark for cricket in the UAE by laying centre turf wickets at its main centre Sharjah English School.

"We are only the academy and school in the entire Gulf region to have centre turf wickets at our premises," said Presley Polonnowita, head coach of DCCA.

Former Pakistan pacer and UAE national coach Aaqib Javed hailed DCCA as the best academy in the region after officially inaugurating the turf wickets on Friday morning by pitching the first ball.

"Desert Cubs took a lead from other academies in terms of facilities and in terms of professionalism. They have more trained coaches and better facilities," said Javed who was impressed with the pathway programme created by Polonnowita to nurture UAE talent for the future.

Veteran cricket administrator in the UAE Mazhar Khan also lauded this new development.

"It is the only school which has turf wickets in UAE. Desert Cubs have been doing a wonderful job in developing youngsters. It is good for development of cricket and augurs well for UAE cricket. I'm sure in next five to seven years, we will have lot of boys coming from this stream to help support our under 16, under 19 and the national team," said Khan, administrator of Emirates Cricket Board.

DCCA, which has two other centres in Dubai at Deira International School, Al Badia, and Dubai College, Jumeirah, has grown from small beginnings to a fully-fledged academy with a registered membership of over 700 budding cricketers.

"We started Desert Cubs with 10 boys and one girl at Sharjah Stadium on 16th October 2007.  We moved to Sharjah English School in 2011. Under my guidance there are 30 cricket coaches and we have badminton and swimming as well," said Polonnowita, 44, whose goal is to make DCCA the best academy in the region.

"My aim is to become the best when it comes to quality and competitiveness by providing proper facilities and opportunities to play this beautiful game. Until this time, only we had turf at the nets.  It was a drawback when it comes to preparing my elite players to national level requirements. That was the main reason I put up this to give children a chance to play," said Polonnowita, a former UAE 'A' team coach.

"This is a requirement at national level also since our guys mostly play on cement and astro, and when it comes to under 19 or senior level they always struggle. My duty is to prepare good bouncy grass wickets to cope up with all these requirements when they travel to countries like Australia, England and other Test playing nations," said Polonnowita who recently qualified as a Level 3 coach after attending the Asian Cricket Council course in Bangladesh.

Polonnowita is not worried about the rapid growth of DCCA but believes in dishing out quality.

"I'm here to produce cricketers for the UAE national team. That is my main motive. I have to make sure I provide facilities for lot of children to come here and play by encouraging children to take up outdoor activities. That's why Desert Cubs have become successful because we are providing children with good facilities to enjoy whatever they do," said Polonnowita who left a promising first class career in Sri Lanka when he came to the UAE in 1994.

"I got the opportunity to work for a UAE bank and play for Lanka Lions," said Polonnowita who toured England with the Sri Lanka Under-18 team alongside former Sri Lanka captain and coach Marvan Atapattu and World Cup winner and ICC elite umpire Kumar Dharmasena in 1988.

"We were the first academy in UAE to go to Australia in July. It was a very successful tour as well," said Polonnowita who has taken DCCA on tours of Sri Lanka, Malaysia, India and the United Kingdom.

The first academy to take a senior girls team to tour UK in 2013, DCCA can proudly claim to have a produced 11 UAE players, including UAE Under-19 captain Waruna Perera.

"What Deserts Cubs have done is absolutely fantastic. To see smiling faces of youngsters is priceless. We are delighted and honoured as Dubai Duty Free to be associated and be there as it expands as well," said Sean Staunton, Vice-President Operations DDF.

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