A museum where cricket bats do the talking.
Shyam Bhatia with the autographed bats of the 2019 World Cup winners (Australia), runners up (New Zealand) and the Indian team.
Shyam Bhatia’s mission to serve the society through cricket continues unabated as he updates all autographed bats in his museum from top cricketers with their performances till the game stopped due to the Covid-19 pandemic
By K.R. Nayar
Can you imagine a hall with 232 cricket bats hanging on its walls? Of these bats, 192 of them have been autographed by outstanding cricketers. The remaining 40 bats have been autographed by various teams, which includes the victorious 1983 World Cup Indian team players and the latest 2019 World Cup winners. Walk into Shyam Bhatia's cricket museum and you will be able to spot this spectacular display of bats.
Whenever I have felt like savouring the taste of cricket history, I visit this museum created by businessman Shyam Bhatia, a cricket enthusiast and an ardent supporter of cricket, and who flies to different parts of the world to distribute cricket kits among underprivileged children. For nearly two decades, his annual Bhatia Awards for excellence in cricket, given away by legendary cricketers, has been an award that all domestic cricketers and umpires aim to receive.
Autographed bats with updated statistics of Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, Kane Williamson and Joe Root.
Even though cricket has come to a standstill around the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this museum’s efforts to feed cricket lovers did not come to a halt. In fact, all information about the game and its history till the COVID-19 crisis has been updated.
Whenever one walks into this museum, there is always a feeling that the cricket bats there do the talking. A glance at any of the bats is enough to know all about the player who has autographed that bat. A great amount of effort has been put in to have details on the bat like the number of Test matches, One-dayers and T20 Internationals played by the player as well as his performances.
When I visited the museum last week, these bats have turned more attractive than in the past with every player's statistics now shown in different colour stickers. I have often met Bhatia in the VIP lounges of many cricket stadiums around the world, especially during the World Cups. Since he has been very close to many international cricketers, it wasn’t difficult for Bhatia to get these bats autographed. Most cricket boards have big regard for Bhatia due to his efforts to help underprivileged children in remote areas through his Cricket for Care charity venture, and hence access to players has been easy for him.
Shyam Bhatia presents his book 'Portraits of the Game' to Virat Kohli
The most talked-about batsman after COVID-19 stopped play is Virat Kohli. So it is natural to have a look at Kohli's autographed bat at the museum and Bhatia has ensured that his run tally in all formats of the game is updated on his bat. The other batsmen whose run tallies are being closely watched by the cricketing world are Steve Smith, Kane Williamson, and Joe Root. Bhatia has updated statistics on their autographed bats too.
Since Bhatia meets top cricketers frequently, he has at times collected more than one autographed bat, and that he puts it to use for the welfare of the society. Says Bhatia: “Twice I donated autographed bats to raise funds for Imran Khan’s cancer hospital. Imran Khan's first bat fetched Dhs 145,000. The Sunil Gavaskar autographed bat earned Dhs 30,000 for Dubai Cares (a UAE based global philanthropic organization), and the autographed bat of Sachin Tendulkar fetched Dhs 20,000 for SNF (Special Needs Future Development Centre).”
Special Needs Future Development Centre (SNF) receives Sachin Tendulkar's bat as Bhatia's contribution to generate funds
Bhatia always returns with autographed cricket bats after watching matches in different parts of the world. “It is not easy to bring them with me while flying in, but the joy it can bring to people overrides all the difficulties. As I always said, for me, cricket is not only a game. It is a way of life.”
Bhatia wants his museum to inspire everyone. “I have given a makeover to all the records of matches on the walls of the museum by adding colour and making it more attractive to the eye. The scores of all the 12 editions of the ICC World Cups are now there. My team has used the COVID-19 lockdown period to work hard, and after a two-month effort everything looks attractive now,” notes Bhatia, who is currently working closely with the Dubai Sports Council and Dubai Arts and Cultural Authority to shift to museum to Meydan Mall in Nad Al Sheba. “The plan has been delayed due to the COVID -19 crisis, but I would like this museum to be easily accessible to all cricket lovers, especially tourists from around the world who visit the UAE. I have put in my best efforts to make this museum a place for the students of the game to be aware and appreciate the rich history of this game and its players who added to its glory.”
Cricket may be cliched as a game of glorious uncertainties but this museum that tells the tale through every item in there surely glorifies the tales of great contests, battles between legends, and their personal touch and contribution.