Chirag Suri, a promising cricketer and a cricket captain of Repton School team in Dubai. Image Credit: Pankaj Sharma/Gulf News Archives

Abu Dhabi: It was just a day before the Under-19 tri-series against Pakistan and England that UAE’s 18-yr-old opener Chirag Suri was told that he would be joining the New Zealand-bound senior team for the World Cup qualifiers.

Even before that excitement could sink in, the youngster was in the middle — trying to save his side from a humiliating defeat against an experienced Pakistan U-19 Team.

The first 10 overs were simply a nightmare for the UAE team. Suri and his partner Shivank Vijay hung around but showed no intent to score. Plenty of eyebrows were raised when the scoreboard read 10 overs and 10 runs. Many felt it would be too much for the young guns to handle. However, Suri knew exactly what he was doing — playing out the new ball bowlers who could have dented his side’s chances. What followed left the opposition stunned; the next 10 overs saw UAE score 70 and the duo put on a partnership of 80 for the first wicket.

That innings of 35 from Suri set the platform for the UAE’s fightback although they eventually fell 26 runs short.

Suri followed up that knock with a mature 70 against England in another losing cause, but it was enough to assure those watching his game closely that he was ready to make the transition. “We were in a practice session in Abu Dhabi before the start of the tri-series when coach Aaquib Javed came up to me and congratulated me. I asked him what for? ‘You are going to New Zealand’, he said and I had the biggest smile on my face,” recollected Suri.

“I have been batting at the No.3 [position] for the U-19 but Aaquib sir promoted me to the top of the order to weather the new ball. I see a similar role if I’m picked in the playing XI on the senior tour,” said Suri, who attributed his success to his mother Gauri Suri and father Jatinder Suri, who had played university level cricket in England.

“In the last couple of games, we played some quick Pakistan bowlers who were clocking around the 130 to 135 mark. We were a bit overcautious in the first 10 overs but, to be honest, we didn’t want to given them any early wicket. I’m sure Pakistan players might be wondering — from where have these bunch of boys come from. You can see an upset happening in the tournament soon,” said Suri, who is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Heriot-Watt University in Dubai.

In the past, UAE kept losing out on players at the U-19 level due to the lack of opportunities but Suri feels that situation is going to change. “Yes, some boys do tend to leave due to studies and all. Now that I have got an opportunity, it will surely motivate others. The senior team has qualified for T20 World Cup and the exposure we are getting will definitely force the boys to give a good thought about it. I’m hoping that some of them will change their mind as we don’t want to lose too many players from this side. If they go on to stay, certainly the team looks much better,” felt Suri, who models his game around India’s batting sensation Virat Kohli.

The senior team players are no stranger for Suri and he felt he can fit into the side with ease. “I have been playing with the senior team players in the domestic tournaments for a few years now. I’m quite familiar with them and have already started practising with them. In fact, our former coach Kabir Khan used to push me into playing with the seniors. Now, I just got to cement my place in the side and grab this opportunity with both hands.”