Dubai: Dubai's status as an east-meets-west business hub is being rivalled in the world of sport with cricket's state-of-the-art academy, also a home for Pakistan's international brigade.
Set up by the International Cricket Council (ICC), in company with Dubai Sports City (DSC) in 2010, the Global Cricket Academy (GCA) caters for players from around the world. Tim Anderson, the ICC global development manager, said the academy is the hub of the game's development.
"The ICC's vision, together with DSC, was to develop a world-class, multi-purpose facility, and then provide a wide variety of programmes that could see anybody from the global and local cricket community use them," Anderson told AFP.
Maqbool Dudhia, general manager of DSC, said the academy is fulfilling those objectives.
"The idea is to be a cricketing hub for the world, something that suits it perfectly given the UAE's geographical location in relation to the rest of the cricketing world, and we are delighted it has not only fulfilled that objective but exceeded it," said Dudhia.
Since the academy opened, 24 of the ICC's members -- including Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, England, the West Indies, as well as a number of English county teams -- have used the facilities for either camps, training or matches.
The GCA and the adjoining Dubai Stadium have also become home for the Pakistan team which is forced to play their international cricket in the UAE because of security fears back home.
In addition, over 1,500 children have participated in the junior progammes, while the facilities have hosted several UAE club competitions and a number of training courses for coaches, officials and groundsmen.
Former Australian wicket-keeper Rod Marsh introduced a multi-dimensional programme of education and coaching as the academy got off to a flying start.
Since Marsh returned to Australia last year, former Pakistan opener Mudassar Nazar is in charge of the coaching, alongside former New Zealand paceman Dayle Hadlee.
"I enjoy my role as it is an opportunity for me to pass on what I know about the game," said Nazar.
"The enthusiasm and the will to learn is in abundance and I hope the talent unearthed at the academy will go places at international level."
The facilities and the top-class coaching have attracted children of expats from not only India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka but also from European countries.
"My son was wasting his time watching television and playing computer games before I got to know about the GCA and now he is on cloud nine, learning cricket," said Asif Kashodia, a Pakistani businessman.
To test skills there is Hawkeye, allowing coaches to highlight weaknesses, not only in players but in those who want to learn umpiring.
The ProBatter, which allows batsmen to simulate facing the world's leading bowlers, is the main attraction.
Pitch Vision is a new plug-and-play coaching aid that allows analysis of players' techniques.
There are various types of bowling machines all of which offer different and varied challenges, as well as numerous types of surfaces, both in the indoor facility and the outdoor practice and match pitches.
There are two full-sized cricket grounds, where warm-up matches and the first-ever cricket series between disabled teams of Pakistan and England was played.
And visiting school teams find the GCA a delightful place.
"Our lads are learning heck of a lot. There are different pitches like WACA and Asian wickets where you can play different lengths, and from cricket to catering we were taken well care of. We want to come again and again," said David Fallows, director of Bromsgrove School in Birmingham.