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Virat Kohli is my cricketing idol, just love watching him play: UAE's Chirag Suri [Interview]

Suri opened up about UAE’s chances in the T20 World Cup, his personal goals, UAE’s future in cricket and much more.

Chirag Suri
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Chirag Suri. (Photo by Julian Herbert-IDI/IDI via Getty Images)
Koustav Sengupta
KOUSTAV SENGUPTA

Jr. Staff Writer

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Chirag Suri’s growth as a cricketer falls in the same timeline as UAE’s growth in international cricket. Being part of the U19 squad previously, the 27-year-old took no time to impress the selectors and got his maiden call-up against West Indies in 2018. Interestingly, he is one such player who got to be a part of an IPL franchise before making his debut in international cricket. Being a foreign cricketer, this is not a common phenomenon and that proves the kind of talent Suri possesses. 

Since then, the cricketer has represented UAE in 29 T20Is and 35 ODIs. With an average of 30.42, the Delhi-born cricketer has scored 791 runs in the shortest format of the game, while he has 941 runs in ODI cricket. Now, with the T20 World Cup all set to begin soon, Suri will once again be the centre of attraction. After UAE failed to qualify for the main round of the Asia Cup and lost the T20I series against Bangladesh, the team currently is under pressure to turn things around but are they ready to create history?

Suri opened up about UAE’s chances in the T20 World Cup, his personal goals, UAE’s future in cricket and much more.

Excerpts:

1. From Delhi to UAE, how has the journey been for you?

It’s been quite a journey. You always dream as a kid to play international cricket, to play in the World Cups. Today, I’m fortunate enough to be in Australia and a part of the T20 World Cup. I think this is what dreams are made of. From a young boy playing in the street to going to the academy with my Dad, I think it’s been a fruitful journey. I have enjoyed it throughout the way. Lots and lots of ups and down, like in anyone’s journey and cricket isn’t any different. It got its share of the good, and not-so-good. I’ve been part of some amazing teams, being lucky enough to be a part of the IPL, the leagues in Canada, T10, representing the UAE national cricket team. Let’s see what the journey beholds further.

2. How special was the debut moment for you?

It’s a big, big moment. It was my ODI debut and we were there for the World Cup qualifiers and we were fighting for ODI status as well. It was a big tournament, to qualify and get that ODI status which goes on for four years, so, it’s a huge, huge tournament. I was lucky enough that we played the game against West Indies and then we played against the Netherlands and we were able to secure ODI status. You don’t get to play these big teams every day. As an associate nation, you play around with these associate nations. So, to be debuting against West Indies was think was a great feeling.

3. Who is your cricketing idol?

I have always loved Virat Kohli, I’ve said it before. He’s someone who I really look up to. I think just watching him play - he goes about his business, the aggression, the dedication the clinicalness. He is just so focused and passionate about the game that I think I’ll definitely take a leaf out of his book. I just love watching him play.

4. What are the particular things that the UAE team needs to work on before the T20 World Cup?

It’s about getting better and improving every day. We are getting closer and closer to being where we want. The World Cup is where we want to put all these pieces together. We obviously played a lot of good cricket and it’s not easy to play against nations like Bangladesh and other Test-playing nations. We have beaten Ireland regularly in T20Is before qualifying for the World Cup. So, we are definitely putting in a lot of good performances and there’s good in some pieces and as every team wants, put those pieces together. At times what happened is that we batted well but didn’t bowl well. So, we want to have perfectly synchronised games because I think we have to be absolutely clinical in the World Cup and that’s what we would look to do in these games (Warm-up games).

5. The team has not played a lot of matches on Australian soil. Do you think that is a disadvantage?

I haven’t played in Australia as well. I played qualifiers in New Zealand, about four-five years ago. Since then, I haven’t played a lot of cricket (in this region) but I think the wickets are good here and we have been here in the last 10-15 days earlier. So, we are getting used to the conditions. We are quite enjoying these kinds of tracks. I think if you put in the work, remain focused and have a plan, you can do well. Our team suits in these kinds of wickets. I think we are in a good headspace at the moment.

6. Do you feel that the team should play against more formidable opponents to strengthen itself?

It is definitely something that we speak about - more games against the better nations because the better people you play against the better you get. It is as simple as that. It is not only with cricket, it is with any sport or any field in life. By being with better people, you are definitely going to pick up things from them. I think it definitely benefits from playing against the bigger nations. We would love to do more in the future.

7. You have played U19 cricket for UAE and a phenomenon has been noticed that a lot of young players are now part of the UAE set-up. What are the things that the Emirates board are currently on in order to bring this revolution? 

I think there’s a lot of good talent that’s currently being nurtured. Like, you can see the average age of the team - what it used to be four-five years ago like I was the youngest player in the team, but now you have 17-year-olds playing for the team. So, it’s definitely a good sign because these are the players that are going to serve the team for the next 10-15 years. We are definitely in a good space looking at the future. 

8. Who would you like to credit the most for the success you have enjoyed thus far?

When I started playing cricket, my dad was my first coach. He deserves a lot of credit. My mom - Family is very important for any cricketer and you know when you have that sort of backing and when they say ‘Jao Beta Khel Lo’ (Go and play, son) you know. They are always supporting you. So, I think I have always been lucky with that. Was lucky enough to coach under Umesh Patwal sir in Bombay. He is my personal batting coach and I have spent a lot of time with him. Whenever we can, I go to India or he comes to Dubai. So, it definitely makes a big difference. In the last year or so, Robin sir being in Dubai. The amount of knowledge and expertise he brings in is second to none. Having played for India and now moved on to a major franchise like Mumbai Indians. I get to learn from him and him being there, I think the team is really developing and is on a good path.

9. You have been a part of the IPL and shared the dressing room with the likes of Suresh Raina, Aaron Finch and many other legends of the game. What was your biggest learning in the journey?

The way they work, the way they operate in nets, they are so positive and I think that’s the key because, in cricket, you are bound to fail. You will never see the same guy do well in 10 games. I think it’s very important (to know) how to deal with failure and pressure and these kinds of things. These are the kind of things that I’ve learned from these guys. The way they go game after game, just doing what they know, believing in themselves and following their routine. I think that’s very important to learn as a young cricketer and I think that really helped me over the last few years.

10. Do you still follow the IPL?

Yeah, of course. I want to play in the IPL and definitely, it is the biggest league and there is no doubt about it. You know what kind of fan following and what kind of love there is for the game in India and I think it is incredible to be a part of such a tournament.

11. Do you have a favourite team in the IPL?

I don’t have one favourite team. Whoever picks me is my favourite team. 

12. As a batter, what is your take on the Charlie Dean-Deepti Sharma saga?

I think we should be allowed to take a full start (laughs). Everyone has their own opinion. Of course, you don’t wanna be too obvious but it’s a batsman’s game now and we have to support others (laughs).

13. Coming back to the T20 World Cup, which teams do you think will start as favourites to win the trophy?

The top three for me are always India, Australia and England. In white-ball cricket, these teams are extremely, extremely dominant and powerful. In these conditions, what we have seen so far, I think it’s going to suit these teams. You have New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka - who has been in really good form at the moment. It’s like a second home for Sri Lankans. There are so many Sri Lankans in Australia, I think they feel at home here. You never know in these kinds of tournaments. We are here to perform as well, we are here to win matches.

14. Any message for the fans before the T20 World Cup?

Thank you very much for supporting us. In UAE, we have people from all over the world. When we had the Bangladesh game, there were so many fans coming and supporting the team but they live in UAE, so they were supporting UAE also. We have fans from all over the world and we feel at home wherever we go. That’s the beauty of UAE cricket and we are going to keep growing and making you proud.