The Ukraine Cricket Federation (UCF) have appointed Dubai-based businessman Shyam Bhatia as the official patron of cricket in the Eastern European country. A special dinner was arranged by UCF to commemorate this occasion, with Bhatia flying to Kyiv to attend. At the event, he gave out signed copies of his book, ‘Portraits of Cricket’ to all board members, whilst also presenting special gifts to UCF President Hardeep Singh and CEO Kobus Olivier.

The appointment represents a major coup for cricket in the region as Bhatia is a man with deep pockets. The multi-millionaire is the founder and owner of Alam Steel, one of the biggest steel companies in the Middle East.

His emergence as a successful businessman is a rags to riches story. Having landed in Dubai with a debt of Rs 10, the Indian expat went onto become a multi-millionaire in just a few years time. Bhatia credits his remarkable success to his love of cricket, stating that the game opened many doors for him in the UAE.

He owns a private cricket museum in his home, which has been visited by many famous sports athletes such as Shane Warne, Sunil Gavaskar and Roger Federer. Furthermore, through his Cricket for Care Foundation, he has been distributing free cricket kits to underprivileged children around the globe, including in Thailand, Indonesia and Japan.

After receiving the award from UCF, Bhatia expressed his delight at the cricket development in Ukraine.

“I am so happy and pleasantly surprised to see that Ukrainian cricket has so much support from the local community. I first came to know about the grassroots cricket work underway here from Kobus Olivier, a couple of years ago. My friendship with him actually dates back to 2014, when he was the CEO of Cricket Kenya. When Kobus approached me for help, I was glad to send him six full sets of softball cricket kits.”

During his trip to Ukraine, Bhatia, accompanied by Olivier, also met with Andrey Pilleroa, the owner of the Astor schools. He donated some additional equipment here to help with the country’s school cricket programme. The ultimate aim is for cricket to be officially incorporated into the Physical Education Curriculum in Ukrainian schools.

“To this end, myself and fellow members of UCF have had very successful meetings with the Deputy Minister of Sport of Ukraine as well as the Department of Youth and Sport in Kyiv,” says Olivier.

Mr. Bhatia initiated his Cricket For Care Foundation in 2007 on the premise that his success in the field of business was primarily due to the lessons learnt on the sports ground. He firmly believes that sport is one of the best ways to instill critical developmental disciplines to young children. “Sport teaches you discipline, teamwork, leadership, and integrity at an early age,” he states. The mandate of the foundation is to provide cricket equipment, facilities and coaching to underprivileged children all over the world. The foundation has made donations in over 20 countries around the world including non-cricket playing countries like Thailand, Indonesia and Japan, and has donated over a $1 million since inception.

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