Over the years, Shyam Bhatia, the Dubai-based Indian businessman and cricket promoter, has received many accolades for his contributions to cricket in the UAE and in various other parts of the world.

Last week, the 80-year-old was over the moon when he received the Sports Imprint Award from Sheikh Hasher bin Maktoum bin Juma Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Media Incorporated.

Under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, the Sports Imprint Award was launched to recognise individuals who have contributed to the sports sector with their humanitarian initiatives.

Acknowledging Bhatia’s tireless efforts to support cricketers at the grassroots level, the Dubai Sports Council nominated him for the prestigious award.

The owner of a beautiful, one-of-a-kind cricket museum in Dubai, Bhatia has never left any stone unturned in his efforts to encourage youngsters.

Among the beneficiaries of his initiatives was Sarfaraz Khan, the 26-year-old Mumbai batsman, who made his India debut early this year.

Sarfaraz, who rose from a humble background, received kits from Bhatia who also sponsored a cricket trip to the UK for him in his early days as a cricketer.

Even Ukraine’s cricket federation received support from Bhatia who regularly sent them kits before the game was brought to a screeching halt in the east European country due to the Russian conflict.

Now Bhatia hopes the Sports Imprint Award will play a role in drawing Emiratis to cricket.

“I am on top of the world, you know they were talking about cricket at the awards ceremony. So it was really nice to see that cricket has found a place at the government level, it was highlighted very prominently in the Arabic media also,” Bhatia told the Khaleej Times.

“I spoke to Sheikh Hasher, and he showed a great interest in the game. He also said he would visit my museum personally. It was so nice of him.”

Bhatia’s museum is every cricket lover’s dream where myriad signed memorabilia and stacks of books and magazines have greeted visitors over the years.

The list of visitors at his museum includes the Who’s Who of cricket like Viv Richards, Imran Khan, Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar, Steve Waugh, Kumar Sangakkara, David Gower and Shane Warne.

“I have been flooded with messages from cricketers like Sunil Gavaskar, Zaheer Abbas, Arjuna Ranatunga, Dilip Vengsarkar, and Michael Holding. Everyone wished me after I shared the news with them,” said Bhatia who helped establish club cricket in the UAE in the 1970s alongside the legendary Abdul Rahman Bukhatir.

Former Indian wicketkeeper Kiran More said the Sports Imprint Award could not have gone to a better person.

“Who doesn’t know Shyam Bhatia in world cricket? I have known Shyam since 1985 when we (Indian Team)toured Sharjah. Since then he has been like a father figure to me, a mentor and always ready to help any cricketer in the world,” the former Indian selector said in an audio message.

“His museum has one of the best collections in world cricket, and he is still doing it. And his passion and love for cricket is unbelievable.”

More said Bhatia, who has also been supporting young cricketers in Japan, has done more for the growth of cricket than the ICC (International Cricket Council).

“His contributions to cricket in the developing-cricket countries are better than ICC. You won’t find a better person than Shyam Bhatia when it comes to promoting cricket,” he said.

“Whatever he does, he does it with a big heart. Very proud of him. I know he is going to keep working hard for the development of cricket.”

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