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Bukhatir League continues to inspire local talent in UAE

Khaleej Times logo Khaleej Times 4 days ago Rituraj Borkakoty
a couple of people posing for the camera: Bukhatir League continues to inspire local talent in UAE © Provided by Khaleej Times Bukhatir League continues to inspire local talent in UAE

Those who saw the myriad moments of magic in the 1980s and the 1990s at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, the name Bukhatir would certainly resonate in their hearts.

Without the vision of Abdul Rahman Bukhatir, cricket would not have gained a foothold in the desert back in the 1980s.

Without Bukhatir, there would have been no joy of the last-ball six -- that famous hoick from Javed Miandad over mid-wicket against a hapless Chetan Sharma that elevated the India-Pakistan cricket rivalry to mythic status.

And without Bukhatir, Sachin Tendulkar's bat would not have found the settings to conjure the 'desert storm'.

Like the many international icons who look back on their Sharjah sojourns with a sense of fulfilment, the UAE cricketers have also produced inspiring stories of their own on this grand old ground.

The Bukhatir League, the only 50 overs domestic tournament in the country, has been a constant source of inspiration for the local talent over the years.

It's in this tournament at the Sharjah Stadium that batsmen learn the art of building an innings and bowlers master their variations.

The 2021 season of the tournament that got underway on February 5 has once again provided the local players with the ideal stage to hone their 50 overs skills and stake their claim for a place in the national team.

"We have been hosting it for 46 years now. This is the premier tournament of the UAE. In fact, the selection of the UAE team for the 1996 World Cup and all other big events were based on players' performances in this tournament," Mazhar Khan, General Manager of Sharjah Cricket, told Khaleej Times.

One such player whose performance in the Bukhatir League helped him fulfil his dream of playing international cricket is Chundangapoyil Rizwan.

"When I got a seven-wicket haul for Yogi, my first major performance in the Bukhatir League, it brought me into the limelight," said Rizwan who arrived in the UAE shores in 2014, hoping to earn a shot at playing international cricket after failing to make his Ranji Trophy debut for Kerala, despite being in the squad.

The batting all-rounder recently scored his first one-day international hundred – a stirring match-winning knock in a nail-biting chase against Ireland – which has now made him a hero at Thalassery, his hometown, with people putting up his posters to celebrate the first international centurion from Kerala.

And the 31-year-old player, who credits UAE coach Robin Singh for the recent improvement in his batting, says he will be forever indebted to Khalaf Bukhatir, Managing Director of Bukhatir Group and CEO of Sharjah Cricket Stadium, for helping him chase his dream of playing international cricket.

"It's the Bukhatir League that helped me get into the UAE team. You know I also work for the Bukhatir Group. And Mr Khalaf Bukhatir, our director, has been so supportive. He also encourages the youngsters a lot and he even gives us performance bonuses if we play well," said Rizwan.

One of the steps taken by the organisers to encourage young talent is the introduction of academy teams in the Bukhatir League.

"Among the 16 teams this season, five are academy teams. So this gives young players an opportunity to compete with international players like Rahmanullah Gurbaz who is playing this year," said Mazhar Khan.

And for Gopal Jasapara, the player-coach of G Force Cricket Academy, the Bulkhatir League is a tournament where he can roll his arm over and teach his students at the same time.

"I am 53 now. It's an opportunity for me to play and motivate people that age is just a number," Jasapara said.

"And also, it gives me a unique opportunity to help my bowlers during a match. The idea is to let them experience match situations and learn from it. The Bukhatir League has been a great learning experience for my players!"

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