The Shyam Bhatia cricket museum in Dubai is a journey down the memory lane of cricket with almost all special moments of the game inscribed on the walls of this unique place. This museum, which completed its tenth year on April 18, 2020, proudly stands tall with its invaluable collection of memorabilia, most of which are personal belongings presented by legendary cricketers. Bhatia, who has made sure to take everyone who visits this museum on a nostalgic cricket journey, said: “It all began when Sunil Gavaskar presented me with one of his cricket bats when he came here for the Cricketers Benefit Fund Series (CBFS) tournament in Sharjah.
From the ’80s, whenever CBFS tournaments were held here, I used to host dinner parties for all the teams. This brought about a massive collection of pics of all the greats of the game and offers given to me via manner of way of some of them. So in 2004, I created a gallery at home where I displayed all pictures and special items given to me by cricketers. My passion for the game got me to fly and watch matches around the world, and I have been fortunate to witness all the World Cup final matches. Almost all cricketers who used to visit my house have end up my friends, and they will often offer me some of their precious private devices each time I met them.
After some time, I realised I needed a bigger place, and with permission from Dubai Municipality, I built a two-storeyed building within my residence premises. On April 18, 2010, this museum was inaugurated in the presence of all Directors of the International Cricket Council (ICC).”
To create a museum in a non-Test playing nation wasn’t easy, but Bhatia worked tirelessly to set it up. With the UAE emerging as a neutral venue for many international contests, most cricketers who came for the matches visited Bhatia’s museum. Every cricketer and official has always been in awe of the museum.
The news about Bhatia’s precious cricketing items began to spread around the world. Today this building is filled with different kinds of cricket related items.
The walls of the museum are like pages of cricket history. The history of cricket from 1887 to this date is colorfully displayed on the walls with pictures of the heroes of that period. A pillar each has been allotted for all Test-playing nations, and it describes their history.
Since there are a number of batsmen who have scaled great heights by piling up runs, Bhatia created a separate area for all those who crossed the 10,000 Test run mark. The history of all 12 cricket World Cups is also brilliantly displayed. If that does not quench your thirst for knowing more, there are over 2000 cricket books and cricket magazines dating back to 1900. Bhatia has also written a book titled ‘Portraits of the Game’ with anecdotes of the great cricketer. The three editions of this book can also be found among the historic books.
Cricket bats autographed by all the greats adorn the walls with their names and achievements embossed on it. Bhatia is delighted that the start made by Gavaskar with his bat was followed by many precious items from other cricketers. “I was thrilled when Sir Viv Richards presented me with his blazer.
South Africa’s greatest captain Graeme Smith gifted his boots with which he played his 100th Test match, and there Are many extra such precious memorabilia,” stated Bhatia, who has obtained acclaim from each cricketer who visited the museum.
All legends who visited the museum have written down their comments, which later got inscribed on the walls of the museum. “Among the great all-rounders who visited this museum is Pakistan skipper and present Prime Minister Imran Khan.
He keenly went through every item and have become surprised to have a look at about his very very own feats recorded clearly. He was very impressed with the whole collection,” said Bhatia.Gavaskar used all adjectives to praise the museum. The list included “amazing, awesome, mind-boggling, fantabulous, brilliant, cracking, delightful, excellent, grand, heroic, inspirational, joyous, kaleidoscopic, quintessential, riveting, superb, unbelievable, vitalising, yummy, and wonderful.”
Pakistan’s mythical batsman Zaheer Abbas remarked that it emerge as the exceptional cricket museum he had ever seen.
Among the cricket bats in the museum are autographed bats by greats like Sir Don Bradman, Graeme Pollock, and Mike Procter. Former Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq comments on the walls of the museum read: “It was a wonderful experience visiting the museum. I loved the idea of cricket being preserved by Mr. Shyam Bhatia. His passion for cricket is immense.” Bhatia’s passion for the game is such that he has also instituted an annual award for the outstanding performers in UAE cricket. The annual award ceremony is held in the front of the museum, and every year legends of the game are invited to give away the prizes.
Those who have presented the awards include Imran Khan, Clive Lloyd, Arjuna Ranatunga, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Andrew Flintoff, Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar, Graeme Smith Zaheer Abbas, etc. Bhatia was planning to stage the 20th edition too when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the event. The walls of the museum are also filled with information and images of Bhatia’s charity initiative titled ‘Cricket For Care’ through which he distributes free cricket kit for underprivileged children around the world not only in the remote areas of the Test-playing nations but also nations like Japan and Indonesia.
Australian all-rounder Shane Watson’s comment on the museum on the walls says: “Such an absolute treat to be able to share the incredible history of the game we all love so much. I can’t wait to come back to continue on my learning. Kapil Dev’s remark reads: “I want to keep coming back to this museum again and again.”
Like Kapil who has saved his phrase and makes notable to drop in on the museum every time heis in the UAE, many fans and cricketers who have visited this museum would also like to return again.
Now that the cricket items have been swelling up over the years, Bhatia believes that the museum requires more space and that cricket fans must be able to visit the museum easily. “I am hoping to shift this museum from my residence premises to a place where the public can freely visit anytime.I am taking walks cautiously with the Dubai Sports Council and Dubai Arts and Culture Authority to shift this museum to Meydan Mall in Nad Al Sheba.”
Summing up his efforts, Bhatia says: “Every time I step into my museum, I plunge myself into the world of cricket. This is a game that has given me everything and is the joy of my life. I am happy to have received original clippings from the 1932 tour and even clippings of great matches from 1949 to 1970s.
Among my collection of books are legendary cricket writer Neville Cardus’s full series and Ranjitsinhji’s limited edition book autographed by him. I want to share my joy with every cricket lover, and the museum has backed my efforts.”