Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi stole the limelight during the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2017 auction as they became the first players from Afghanistan to be picked to play the tournament. It was a sign that the franchises were ready to embrace Associate cricketers. Through that, Chirag Suri quietly made an entry into the IPL for the Gujarat Lions. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) batsman will become the first player from that country to feature in the IPL.
Suri was born in Delhi and moved to Dubai as a young boy. The cricketing bug bit him at an early age as he picked up the bat during his days at the Modern School. Speaking to this writer, Suri said, “There is a lot of cricket in the UAE. In fact, our cricket is not seasonal as we can play all-year round. I spent my early years in Delhi, where I played for the Modern School at a very junior level. That continued when I moved to the UAE as a 10-year-old.” It was steady progress in the UAE then as he went on to play for the age groups and made it to the senior side in early 2014.
There have been many players from India who have gone on to play for the UAE. Riaz Poonawala, Vijay Mehra and Shaukat Dukanwala were some of the prominent names in their early years. Poonawala and Dukanwala had played First-Class cricket in India. In later years, you had Ramveer Rai, who represented UAE at the age of 17 and was the man who faced Lasith Malinga’s first delivery in one-day cricket. In recent times, former Mumbai age-group cricketer Swapnil Patil has played for the UAE and so has Kerala’s Krishnachandran Karate. However, Suri has carved a niche in that list with his recent IPL selection and became the talk of the town in the country.
Speaking about his growth as a batsman, he said, “When I was younger, I had the chance to work with Madan Lal, the former India cricketer. Shafiq Ali was my school coach. Former UAE cricketer, Shahzad Altaf also worked with me. My father is a huge cricket fan and it was natural that I pick up the sport. It continued when I moved to Dubai from Delhi.”
Now, he has a chance to play alongside Suresh Raina, Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Smith, James Faulkner, Dwayne Bravo and Jason Roy to name a few. This is a big leap for him and an experience that will help him grow as a cricketer. “I think I would want to pick up tips on batting approach from them. There are players like Dwayne Smith, Brendon McCullum, Jason Roy and Suresh Raina to name a few. We have a very good side and I will try to learn as much as I can and put it to good use to improve my game,” he said.
Now, he has a month to prepare for the tournament and he is focussed on getting things right. “In the long term, the ones who are fit do well, so my focus would be on fitness. If you are going for a tournament like the IPL, you have to be positive and hope for the best from there. This selection is a step in the right direction for me,” he said.