Dubai: The upcoming edition of IPL 2020 is not exactly UAE’s first tryst with arguably the world’s most glamorous T20 franchise cricket league. While they had hosted the first leg of IPL in 2014, national team opener Chirag Suri remains the only player from the UAE till date to have been a part of any IPL squad with the Gujarat Lions in 2017.
As the countdown has begun for a full length IPL to start here on September, Suri feels it’s a ‘‘massive opportunity’’ for the cricketers of this associate country to gain during a nearly three-month window. All the eight franchises are scheduled to arrive here much early from August 21 and set up preparatory camps after their quarantine period as the Indian players had been out of action since March due to the lockdown for COVID-19 pandemic.
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‘‘It was really an emotional moment for my family when Gujarat Lions bid for me at a base price at the auction for the 2017 season. From the day I reached Rajkot for a bonding camp to the next two months, time just flew and it was a huge learning experience for me,’’ said the UAE opener.
Speaking to Gulf News during an exclusive chat, the 25-year-old was candid in admitting that it was an unforgettable experience for him which made him a better player. ‘‘I couldn’t get a game but it was hardly surprising as there were at least seven world class openers like Brendan McCullum, Aaron Finch and Dwayne Smith. However, it was a great opportunity to watch up close as how the top cricketers prepare for a match or how they back themselves during pressure situations. Suresh Raina, captain of the team, also saw to it that I developed as a professional,’’ said Chirag.
However, the attacking batsman was no stranger to the IPL ambience then as during the teams’ visit to Dubai way back in 2014, he caught the eye as a 19-year-old in three practice matches - two against Mumbai Indians and one against Rajasthan Royals. ‘‘I was a part of the UAE team and vividly remember my innings of 66 which I got off 30 balls against Mumbai. I picked up Jasprit Bumrah, then not even a regular in their squad, for two boundaries in an over while I got 20 off a single over of Tim Southee.
‘‘The point that I am trying to make here is the IPL set-up teaches a player not to get overawed by reputations. However, with the bio-bubble to be in place for the teams this time, I am not sure if there will be any such scope for the UAE boys,’’ he said.
With the IPL setting a cap on the strength of each team at 24 players in such a long tournament, there could always be the odd possibilities of a vacancy arising due to injuries or sickness - and Chirag has no qualms about admitting that he would be open to any offer that may come his way. ‘‘If something like this happens, then I will be ready to back myself and grab the chance,’’ said the batsman, who was in good touch during the recent Emirates D-10 Championship.
Asked where would his priorities lie between a break in the IPL or the grey shirt of the UAE national team, Chirag was however forthright in mentioning that it had to be the latter. ‘‘See, it brings a different joy to play for the country. I have played more international matches for the UAE than some of the regular players in the IPL and my dream is to take the country to the World Cup,’’ he signed off.