At 14-years-old, Aryan Lakra is the youngest in the UAE Under-19 selection camp, but he is undaunted by the task of playing against older players as he bids to seal his spot in the final squad.
The all-rounder beat more than 100 youngsters after his outstanding performances in the Emirates Cricket Board’s (ECB) Under-16 and U-19 Al Ain Inter-Emirate tournament in April saw him named among the 27 hopefuls.
His next task is to impress the ECB selectors that he’s worthy of a place in the 15-man party for the 2018 World Cup pre-qualifiers in Malaysia in September.
But he insists age is just a number. The DPS Dubai pupil said: “I don’t really feel that I’m the youngest.
“I feel I have earned this right because of my performances. I had that in mind and I just want to perform really well and get into the team. Age is just a number for me but I don’t feel scared of playing against older players.
“I’m honoured by the fact that I’m the youngest in the camp because I worked really hard to get to this stage. But now I want to go even further.”
He has three months to make his case during the training/selection camp at the ICC Academy but will be full of confidence after his season so far.
In the Inter-Emirate tournament, he was the top wicket-taker with 10 scalps in four matches in the U-16 category, while also scoring 86 runs in his two innings.
That form did not go unnoticed and he was subsequently named in the U-19 squad, for whom he made 85 runs and took three wickets in four games as Dubai claimed a historic double.
But after attending two intense training sessions so far, he insists he cannot count on his past form to make the cut.
“This is the first time I’ve been selected in the national selection camp but it’s a lot different to what I imagined,” he said. “It involves a lot of fitness training and we have been told that will be crucial during the camp so it’s not just about our abilities.”
Standing in the way of his dream is a strong crop of players including a number of faces who played in last year’s ACC Premier League in Malaysia.
One man he knows fairly well is captain Waruna Perera, who is his team-mates at Desert Cubs.
“He’s my inspiration,” Lakra said. “I have always looked up to him and I hope we are both selected.”
He also spoke glowingly of the ADIB NSL, where he was named Under-13 MVP in 2015.
“The wicket-turf grounds have helped me in my progress and I have learnt how to deal with pressure in different match situations while playing the NSL,” he said.
One Stop Tourism (OST) bowlers shined with the ball as they claimed the T20 Bukhatir League title after a thrilling three-run victory over Unicon Real Estate.
Fahad Ansari was the pick with three wickets while Daniyal Shakeel and Mohammed Qasim took two each as Unicon fell short of their target of 188.
It capped a thrilling end to the tournament at Al Dhaid Village.
Having won the toss and electing the bat first, OST suffered an early loss when Saif Janjua departed for just one. Ansari and former UAE Under-19 international Chirag Suri took charge of the situation by putting on a 49 runs for the second wicket before he was out after scoring a fine 41 (five fours and one six).
Suri was involved in another important partnership with Qasim as they put on 96 runs for the third wicket, before the latter was sent back after scoring a quickfire 45 from 25 deliveries. But Suri was in hot form with the bat and remained unbeaten on 64 (five fours and one six) during his 46-ball stay as OST reached 187-3.
Chasing a stiff target, Unicon started poorly, losing two wickets with just 21 on the board. But Naseeb Khan (27) and Adnan Khan steadied the ship as the pair piled on 54 runs with Adnan showing a lot of aggression in smashing 46 runs off just 23 balls, including five fours and two sixes.
Abu Baker upped the ante with a 17-ball 30 while Saif Ullah scored an identical tally from 24 deliveries as Unicon edged closer to the the title.
But Ansari picked up two crucial wickets to take his tally to three while Shakeel and Qasim finished with figures of 2-24 and 2-41 respectively as Unicon were restricted to 184 all out.
Shahid Sadique, Asif Mumtaz and Rohan Mustafa, all of Alubond Tigers, were adjudged as Best Batsman, Best Bowler and Player of the tournament respectively.
UBL, who triumphed in last month’s Sharjah Cricket Council’s premier 50-over-a-side event after a 76-run victory over Danube Lions, are drawn in Group B alongside NTDE, Sewa Smile Cricket Club and Khaleej Times.
Among their main challengers are Alubond Tigers, who were recently crowned Division A champions in Abu Dhabi. They will have to overcome Fly Emirates, Fly Hawks and Unicon Real Estate in Group C to make it to the knock-out stages.
Multiplex International meet Saudi Falcons, Bukhatir XI and Ramada Ajman in Group D, while New Medical Centre, Red Flower Tourism, Old School Boys and Radio 4, complete the line-up.
Now in its 27th edition, Mazhar Khan, honourary secretary of Sharjah Cricket Council is delighted by the turn-out of the T20 tournament, which began Tuesday.
“The fact it’s been going on for so many years is a big thing for us and it certainly has a lot of history,” he said.
“We have some very good teams this year and that’s great to see. I wish all the teams good luck for this tournament.
“The Ramadan tournament is always special as it brings out the best of the players. We had a tremendous season so far especially having held many tournaments and I’m sure with it being a T20 tournament, the players will get into the groove play some exciting games.”