Dubai: It was a welcome reunion for Ramveer Rai and Sharan Kumar, both of whom had captained the UAE in international junior cricket tournaments. Both learnt their basics of the game in UAE, sparkled in inter-school tournaments before leaving the country to pursue their studies and career.
The World Indoor Cricket Federation World Cup brought these two together again, where Rai is a star player for the UAE, while Kumar turns out for Singapore. Rai is one of the most sought-after indoor cricketers and has won two Man of the Match awards in this World Cup. He was even approached by the India indoor team to play for them, but opted for UAE which groomed him as a player.
Rai’s promise as an outdoor cricketer was vindicated when at the age of 16, he made his one-day international debut in the Asia Cup in 2004 in Dambulla against hosts Sri Lanka. He had top-scored for UAE as an opener with 39 runs in UAE’s total of 123, facing the fearsome Sri Lankan pacer Lasith Malinga who also made his debut in this match.
Sharan, who was the captain of the UAE-17 team, was selected to the Asian Under-17 squad in 2004 through a string of huge scores. Former Indian test star Abid Ali, who was the UAE coach then, was very fond of the pair.
Speaking to Gulf News, Sharan recalled his playing days with Rai. “It was awesome meeting Rai to play international cricket again after 13 years. He was my roommate during UAE tours and we used to strategise together to win matches and now we are strategising against each other, which is really funny.”
Sharan was a prolific scorer for Dubai’s Westminster School. “I represented UAE Under-15, Under-17, and Under-19 before I left for Australia for my Bachelor’s degree in Commerce. I went on to work for BHP Billiton but played for Valleys District in Brisbane and Sturt District in Adelaide, and moved to Singapore where I played for Mariners Club in outdoor league and F11 in division one indoor league. I finally opted for indoor cricket.”
Rai, who moved to England to study, said: “I used to play indoor cricket from the age of 11. When I came back to UAE after taking my Master’s Degree in England I noticed that indoor cricket had grown a lot in popularity. My friends who played tape ball cricket regularly had shifted to playing indoor tournaments at Insportz. I worked hard on indoor cricket and UAE skipper Saqib Nazir approached me to play for his squad in A division. Saqib has been the key figure in my indoor cricket career.”
Rai plays indoor cricket with the same passion he displayed in outdoor cricket. “I look to give 200 per cent in all games I play. I am still as ambitious as the 16-year-old boy who made his debut for UAE against Sri Lanka and still have lot left in me to do for UAE in the game.”
Sharan, who was born in UAE, feels honoured to have played for Singapore.
“I feel honoured to get the chance to represent a country after many years. What makes it special is playing the world cup in my country of birth and against my dear old teammates.”