Chirag Suri says it’s “a good feeling” to be recalled into the UAE squad for next month’s World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe.
The batsman, who turned 23 on Tuesday, was not part of the 14-man triumphant squad that won the World Cricket League Division Two title in Namibia last week.
But with the ICC allowing a maximum of 15 players for the 10-team World Cup Qualifier, the Emirates Cricket Board selectors have drafted Suri back into the fold following his recent impressive displays.
Since the start of the year, Suri scored 85 in a practice match against Nepal while going even better against Afghanistan with an unbeaten 86 with his domestic club Bukhatir XI.
“It’s a good feeling to be back,” said Suri, whose last competitive appearance for the national team came in November where he scored 15 and 81 in the defeat to Afghanistan in the four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup at Abu Dhabi.
“I’ve had a good start to the New Year and had a couple of good performances in the last month. I was lucky enough to do well in those and just want to take this form to the World Cup Qualifiers.”
Suri broke into the national team last year after returning from the IPL where despite not playing a single minute for Gujarat Lions, became the first Emirates cricketer to be snapped up in the T20 extravaganza tournament.
He continued to have a strong run before the emergence of opening batsman Ashfaq Ahmed meant he was overlooked for the WCL clashes. But he has no qualms of losing his spot and acknowledges he has to earn his place in the starting 11.
“These things don’t really bother me (of wanting to win his place back),” he said. “I think the main thing is to do well and score runs whenever I play. Whether I’m in the squad or not, these things don’t really bother me. I try to play my own game. If anything I work harder if I’m not in the squad and try to produce the results. I’m really happy that a few games have gone that way and hopefully we can do that in Zimbabwe.”
The UAE face an uphill task of reaching the showpiece event in 2019. They have been drawn alongside reigning World T20 champions West Indies, Ireland, Papua New Guinea and Netherlands in their group in a tournament where only the top two nations will qualify. Ireland, Afhganistan, Hong Kong, Nepal, Scotland and hosts Zimbabwe are in the other group.
But it’s not the first time Suri will be playing in a World Cup Qualifier. In 2014, he was part of the squad that claimed a berth in New Zealand for the 2015 event and is hoping history can repeat itself.
“I have very fond memories because to qualify for the World Cup was really good feeling. To help the UAE do that was incredible feeling and hopefully we can try and replicate that this year,” he said.
The UAE will pit themselves against the reigning World Twenty20 champions on March 6 in Harare, Zimbabwe, after being drawn alongside with Ireland, Netherlands and Papua New Guinea in Group A following their qualification.
Raza was among the squad members that booked their place in the competition after finishing in the top two in the triumphant World Cricket League Division Two in Namibia last week.
The 29-year-old spinner is already looking forward to the challenge, where the top two sides will qualify for the 2019 showpiece event, and while he insists he is not targeting any batsmen, it would be an honour if he dismissed Gayle.
“Yes definitely (it would be),” said Raza. “He will be the prized wicket because we all know how destructive he can be. It would be nice to get him out early because once he gets going, he will be hard to contain. He will be our prized wicket and he can really leave a big mark if we can’t get him out early.
“But to be honest, I’m not targeting anyone. I just have to go out there and do my job. If I do that well, I’m sure I’ll pick up wickets. If I contain from one end, I’m sure my bowling partner at the other end will pick up some wickets. I’ll do what I do best and that is to contain runs and take wickets.”
He can be encouraged by the fact he claimed three wickets when the two sides met in a T20 practice match in Dubai ahead of West Indies’ series against Pakistan in the UAE in 2016.
“If I can get another three wickets it would be great,” he added. “That was a really good day for me and if I can get anything close to that then it would be great. That means that I’ll also be picking up wickets in the middle order which if the team is building at that time, you can dent their chances of scoring. It would be nice if I get some wickets against them in Zimbabwe.”
This time last week, the UAE’s hopes of facing the likes of West Indies were very slim after successive losses to Nepal and Canada in WCL. But the team bounced back strongly with triumphs over Oman, Namibia and Nepal in the final and Raza said the turnaround was down to their test of character.
“It’s a test of character of how you come back from losses,” he said. “In a global event, you have to put the losses behind and look forward and try and win the next game and that’s what we did.”
The UAE emerged champions of the World Cricket League Division Two and, most importantly, earned a berth in next month’s World Cup Qualifier.
Here, we look at three things learned from the tournament.
Confidence was high as they thrashed Kenya by 218 runs in their opening match of the tournament. But in the space of three days and two successive defeats to Canada and Nepal, the UAE were in real danger of missing out on reaching the World Cup Qualifier and ODI status. Another loss would have not only have seen them exit the tournament, but have serious implications to the Emirates Cricket Board. With no ODI status, the ECB would lose out on ICC funding, which has been crucial to the team’s development, especially for their central contracts roster. With plenty riding on the games, the UAE delivered when it really mattered and that too under pressure to not only win the tournament, but advance to the Qualifier.
Rohan Mustafa is captain Marvel
Before a ball was even bowled, the 29-year-old all-rounder said it would be “pretty special” as skipper to help the UAE reach the next stage. The team has been resurgent under his captaincy in the last 12 months but when it mattered the most, he made it count. As opening batsman, he finished as his team’s third highest run-scorer with 183 runs, but it was with the ball where he really shone. His 13 wickets was his team’s best in the competition and when the pressure was on in the death overs, he took charge and led by example.
All-round team effort
Head coach Dougie Brown singled out each and every player who deserved credit for their fine achievement and rightly so. Ashfaq Ahmed scored his maiden international century as he finished second highest run-scorer with 237 runs. Ghulam Shabbir showed he’s not just handy behind the stumps with vital runs, most notably his 63-run knock in the thrilling Oman victory. Shaiman Anwar and Rameez Shahzad came together with a 120-run stand against Namibia, while Amir Hayat, Ahmed Raza and Mohammed Naveed all took key wickets. The list goes on for what was a remarkable team effort.