Chirag Suri: There is nothing bigger than the World Cup

In-form opener says UAE’s players crave an appearance on the global stage ahead of T20 Qualifier in Muscat

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - March 20, 2019: UAE's Chirag Suri bats during the game between UAE and Surrey. Wednesday the 20th of March 2019 ICC cricket academy, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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When Chirag Suri was assembling his highest T20 international score on Saturday, seven days after doing the same in ODI cricket, the timing was neat.

At the exact same time, across the Arabian Sea, millions of dollars were being gorged at the Indian Premier League mega auction.

At various points around the globe, cricketers were having their lives changed in an instant, with the promise of eye-watering salaries to play alongside the greats of the game.

Suri is the lone UAE player who can vaguely empathise. He remains the only one from these shores so far to have been contracted within franchise cricket’s biggest show.

It is nearly five years now since he spent a season with Gujarat Lions. When his name went under the hammer at the 2017 auction, he was moved to tears.

T20 World Cup Qualifier A, Muscat

Friday, February 18: 10am - Oman v Nepal, Canada v Philippines; 2pm - Ireland v UAE, Germany v Bahrain

Saturday, February 19: 10am - Oman v Canada, Nepal v Philippines; 2pm - UAE v Germany, Ireland v Bahrain

Monday, February 21: 10am - Ireland v Germany, UAE v Bahrain; 2pm - Nepal v Canada, Oman v Philippines

Tuesday, February 22: 2pm – semi-finals

Thursday, February 24: 2pm – final

UAE squad: Ahmed Raza (captain), Muhammad Waseem, Chirag Suri, Vriitya Aravind, Rohan Mustafa, Kashif Daud, Zahoor Khan, Alishan Sharafu, Raja Akifullah, Karthik Meiyappan, Junaid Siddique, Basil Hameed, Zafar Farid, Mohammed Boota, Mohammed Usman, Rahul Bhatia

All matches to be streamed live on icc.tv

It was a special day in his life. So maybe the memory of it prompted his 84 not out against Nepal on this year’s mega auction day? Not a bit of it. In fact, he had to be made aware of the coincidence.

“It’s true that the auction was going on,” Suri said. “Obviously, that is one of the biggest tournaments in the world and every cricketer wants to be part of that.

“Not a lot of Associate cricketers have had the chance to be part of the IPL, and that is definitely something in the future I would love to be part of.

“But the focus for us is the World Cup. I have never been part of a World Cup. It is my dream to be going to Australia to play in the T20 World Cup. Nothing is bigger than the World Cup.”

Only two of the current UAE squad have sampled what it is like to play at a World Cup - Ahmed Raza and Rohan Mustafa were part of the 2014 squad for the T20 tournament in Bangladesh.

Suri played a part in the team who earned qualification for the 50-over version a year later, but did not make the final cut for the tournament.

In the time since, UAE have found a variety of different ways to miss out on trips to the big show – some more sinister than others.

Their preparation for the T20 World Cup Qualifier in Muscat, which starts when they face Ireland on Friday, has been wildly different to past editions. Essentially because it has been going unnervingly well.

UAE were unbeaten in seven games in all cricket before their final-over defeat to hosts Oman in their final warm up match on Monday.

“It has been a while since we have been in such a blessed position, where everything we have touched has turned to gold,” said Raza, the national team captain.

“Hopefully next week is the same. It has been ideal preparation, playing seven games already on the same square and in the same conditions.

“We couldn’t have asked for anything else, especially with the way we have been playing.

“There have been different players who have been raising their hands and performing on different days. It is a great position to be in.”

Bahrain and Germany are the other two sides in the four team group – neither of whom the UAE have faced before.

Their opposition in the first match, though, are regular rivals. Ireland accounted for five of the six matches UAE played in 2021, while they also faced them in Muscat as recently as Sunday.

The national team have enjoyed the better of the exchanges against the Irish in recent times, but Raza is warning that counts for nothing when the Qualifier starts.

“It is really important to start well in these tournament because you don’t want to put yourselves under pressure by not winning,” Raza said.

“Having beaten Ireland just a couple of days ago, that doesn’t guarantee a win. We have to start from scratch and hopefully scrap our way to victory.

“The Oman loss was the first we have had in a long time. Even if there was complacency, which I don’t think there was, it definitely worked in our favour.

“We have stayed grounded. We played good cricket in the second half of the game because that was a below par score. Our record in Oman is great, and hopefully we can live up to that in the coming week.”

Updated: February 17, 2022, 8:07 AM
T20 World Cup Qualifier A, Muscat

Friday, February 18: 10am - Oman v Nepal, Canada v Philippines; 2pm - Ireland v UAE, Germany v Bahrain

Saturday, February 19: 10am - Oman v Canada, Nepal v Philippines; 2pm - UAE v Germany, Ireland v Bahrain

Monday, February 21: 10am - Ireland v Germany, UAE v Bahrain; 2pm - Nepal v Canada, Oman v Philippines

Tuesday, February 22: 2pm – semi-finals

Thursday, February 24: 2pm – final

UAE squad: Ahmed Raza (captain), Muhammad Waseem, Chirag Suri, Vriitya Aravind, Rohan Mustafa, Kashif Daud, Zahoor Khan, Alishan Sharafu, Raja Akifullah, Karthik Meiyappan, Junaid Siddique, Basil Hameed, Zafar Farid, Mohammed Boota, Mohammed Usman, Rahul Bhatia

All matches to be streamed live on icc.tv

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