UAE's Chirag Suri says there's plenty of positives to take from IPL

Denzil Pinto 15/05/2017
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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.”

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.”

England opportunities

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.”

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Daredevils braveheart Pant overcomes adversity to make his mark

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Rishabh Pant of the Delhi Daredevils bats during match 40 of the Vivo 2017 Indian Premier League between the Delhi Daredevils and the Sunrisers Hyderabad held at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium in Delhi, India on the 2nd May 2017 Photo by Deepak Malik - Sportzpics - IPL

Teenage wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant has created quite a buzz in this year’s IPL. The left-handeder entered the tournament on the back of a brilliant domestic season, scoring a 48-ball century for his state side Delhi against Jharkhand in the Ranji Trophy tournament late last year after smashing 308 off 326 balls against Maharashtra in the same tournament.

His exploits in the first-class tournament, coupled with his superb show in the 2016 Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh where he scored 267 runs from six outings, saw Pant win an India cap – a T20 game against England in February.

The IPL, however, was seen as the biggest test with an opportunity to impress national selectors for a spot in the squad for the Champions Trophy in England.

For Pant, the path became a painful one following the death of his father just a couple of days before Delhi Daredevils’ first IPL game against Royal Challengers Bangalore. He performed the last rites, joined his franchise and scored a 57 off 36 balls in what was losing cause. For Pant it was an epochal moment.

Pant's domestic stats

The 19-year-old had demonstrated maturity much beyond his years and was now being seen as a long-term replacement for the No1 wicketkeeper in the country – MS Dhoni. And just to remind everyone of his class, Pant smashed 97 from 43 balls against the Gujarat Lions while chasing 209, in an innings that was described as the best in IPL history by Sachin Tendulkar.

It has been quite a journey and the path ahead looks promising. He spoke to Sport360° after a hectic first few weeks of the IPL.

How are you handling the focus on you this IPL as you have already played for India?

I am not thinking that there is any extra focus on me. I just need to perform well. If I am playing a match, I don’t think about who is watching me. I only concentrate on my game.

This IPL is very emotional for you as it came on the back of a personal loss. How have you managed to stay focused?

It’s not easy for me. I am thinking about it all the time. I have to do something else. If I keep thinking about it (father’s death), it will be very difficult to move on in life. That’s why I am trying to focus on cricket and not much else.

How has Rahul Dravid (Delhi Daredevils mentor and India U19 & ‘A’ team coach) helped?

Rahul sir is a legend. The main thing that I have learned from him is discipline. Throughout his career, he never used to be late. It’s the same case now as well. So that is what I have learned from him.

Did your successful season in Ranji Trophy helped you play with more authority?

When you score runs in domestic cricket, you automatically become confident about your game. But it is not as if I have only scored runs this season. It’s just a feeling of confidence that I am getting from my teammates and the environment with Daredevils. It’s so good out here, I am enjoying my time.

You are at the top of the table when it comes to up-and-coming Indian wicketkeepers…

It’s a motivation for a youngster like me to be seen as an up-and-coming player. I try to learn from everyone, whether I am in the Indian team or with others.

How do you juggle your responsibilities in IPL?

Wicketkeeping and batting are different. I don’t mix the two. But they tend to complement each other. If you are batting well, you will see the ball well and keep well. Similarly, if I am keeping well, it reflects in my batting as well.

Has the absence of Quinton de Kock and JP Duminy meant more responsibility for you?

Every player has a role to play. The responsibility is not just on Zaheer bhai or me or anyone else. After Quinton and Duminy became unavailable, we were on the backfoot. They were the main batsmen of our team. But that’s just cricket.

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Dubai Cricket Council claim ECB Under-19 Inter-Emirate title

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Dubai Cricket Council (DCC) completed a double in the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) Inter-Emirate National tournaments for the second straight season and their remarkable success took Amin Farooq by surprise.

Two weeks after claiming the Under-16 crown, they added another trophy as Rahul Bhatia (3-26) and Mohammed Ali Mirza (2-33) starred with the ball to help Dubai successfully defend 207 and beat Sharjah Cricket Council by eight runs in the Under-19 tournament.

It meant they stood top of their class in the 50-over competition, which also saw Abu Dhabi and Ajman in action.

The triumphant squad were able to pick the brains of three former UAE internationals – spinner Salman Farooq, pacer Fahad Al Hashmi and batsman Qais Farooq and while Amin credited the trio, he heaped praise on the emirate’s stars of tomorrow.

“Yes I am surprised by their successes in this tournament,” he said. “There is a lot of strong talent in the UAE and that was shown by the teams entered by all four emirates.

“We had three former UAE internationals as part of our coaching staff because we still feel they have a lot to offer for the youngsters and everyone in the squad understood what was required.”

ECB will now select the best for a training camp ahead of a 50-over qualifying tournament in September for the Asia Cup.

While Amin is hopeful that some of the Dubai players have pressed their case, he emphasised it is the council’s vision in developing talented cricketers from a young age.

“We are here to promote cricket and there were some exceptional displays in this tournament from all the boys,” he said. “It was quite challenging but it’s something we all enjoyed.”

Dubai captain Krishna Lakhani,  18, who topped the batting charts with 246 runs, added: “It was great honour to lead the team.”

“We played well as a team and got some big scores and hopefully it will help me get selected to the next round.”

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