UAE’s Chirag Suri understands the reason why he wasn’t selected to play in Gujarat Lions’ last three matches but insists there’s plenty of positives to take from his debut IPL season.
The 22-year-old made history by becoming the first cricketer from the Emirates to be sold in February’s auction but the batsman was unable to get a single minute at the crease.
Chances of being an automatic starter were very slim considering the squad boasted the likes of 2011 World Cup winner and Lions captain Suresh Raina, Aaron Finch, England international Jason Roy and Brendon McCullum.
But he was given a glimmer of hope when former New Zealand captain McCullum was ruled out for the remainder of the tournament after suffering a left hamstring strain during the seven-wicket defeat to Delhi Daredevils on May 5.
The result not only saw their play-off hopes over, it left Lions with just four overseas players; Dwayne Smith, Finch, James Faulkner and Suri.
As per IPL rules, all four could have been picked for their remaining games against Kings XI Punjab, Delhi Daredevils and Sunrisers Hyderabad but head coach Brad Hodge and Raina decided against giving Suri his IPL debut.
“Obviously, I would’ve liked to have played a game but I spoke to Raina and Hodgy (Hodge) and the batting was doing quite well,” Suri told Sport360 ahead of his flight to Dubai on Tuesday.
“As a team it wasn’t making sense to play an extra batsman as the coaching staff wanted to strengthen the bowling attack.
“It’s all about combination at the end of the day and having spoken to both of them, they didn’t want to make too many changes. Especially after the win over Kings XI, you don’t want to make too many changes especially in a tournament where thing were not going well. It was a bit difficult for me not to play but it was a great experience for me.”
The closest he came to getting any games under his belt was against Delhi Daredevils at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium.
The ex-GEMS Modern Academy and Repton School pupil made a brief appearance as a substitute fielder before paperwork error saw him come off.
“There was a bit of confusion with the umpires because my name wasn’t on the list of substitute fielders,” he recalled. “It was only when I came on, the umpires said ‘your name isn’t on the list boss’, so I had to come off and it was quite a funny incident for me.”
— The Gujarat Lions (@TheGujaratLions) April 12, 2017
Saturday’s defeat to Sunrisers Hyderabad capped a frustrating season for Lions, who finished the campaign second bottom with just four wins out of 10.
Although he could not play any role in their group exit, Suri says it was an “unbelievable experience” to be part of the franchise.
“I have certainly made some good friends here and they were all easy going people,” he said. “Outside cricket, we used to unwind and attend sponsorship events which gave me an insight of what it’s like to be a professional player and how teams function. I enjoyed all the publicity and fame and getting to stop for people for selfies and pictures. It was great fun.
“Honestly, I really cannot pick out one favourite part or moment. I met Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli and when you meet these big names, you’re always inspired and there will be a lot of memories I’ll take back,” added Suri.
After six weeks of travelling and training, there will be no rest for him when he arrives today with a domestic game scheduled in Sharjah on Wednesday.
And after picking the brains of the world’s best on a daily basis, he cannot wait to put that into practice.
“You have to take what adapts to your game and I’ve implemented a few strategies in the nets and want to use that in matches in the UAE,” he said. “I feel I’m getting more strength on hitting the ball hard and cleanly.”
Suri also revealed he has received two offers from unnamed English club division sides. With the English season already under way before it concludes in September, Suri will weigh up his options whether to make the long 3,000m trip.
“I’ve got a couple of offers from clubs in Lancashire and Durham area but let’s see,” he said.
“The season has already started but I’m not sure if I’ll be accepting it or not. I’ve got UAE commitments to think about although the aim is to play cricket wherever it is.
“But I’ve had a hectic schedule with the IPL and I don’t think I’ll be making a call anytime soon. I’m looking forward to spending time with my friends and family in Dubai.”