Vriitya Aravind says the UAE’s players are “obsessed” with qualification for the T20 World Cup.
They started their campaign at the qualifier in Muscat in fine fashion, with an 18-run win over Ireland, who are the only Test nation in the eight-team tournament, on Saturday.
Aravind, the 19-year-old wicketkeeper, laid the platform for victory with a masterly 97 not out which entirely belied his inexperience.
His neatly paced innings was the basis for the national team’s total of 157 for five at the Oman Cricket Academy.
In reply, the Irish managed 139 for nine from their 20 overs, with 21-year-old leg-spinner Karthik Meiyappan excelling as he took three for 16.
“In the dressing room, everyone’s morale is very high — they are all obsessed to win this qualifier,” Aravind said.
“Of course, last time we didn’t qualify for the World Cup. This time, everyone is hungry to qualify. That is why you are seeing these sort of performances.”
The victory was a significant step towards sealing a semi-final place, with matches against Germany and Bahrain still to play in the group stage.
Only the two sides who reach the final will get to advance to the main event in Australia later in the year.
“[Ireland] are the favourites to win this tournament,” Aravind said. “Every article I read said they were the favourites to win this tournament.
“It was good to upset the favourites and was a good start to the tournament for us, but this was just the start. There are four more games and a semi-final would be massive.”
Aravind’s innings, which comprised 67 balls, 13 fours and a six, was his highest in T20 internationals. Earlier in the tour, he had achieved similar in one-day international cricket, too, when he scored 89 against Oman.
“It has felt like whatever I have been trying to do, things have been kind of going my way,” Aravind said.
“I just need to try to cash in, score runs and try to win games for my team.
“The first 10 balls were probably the scratchiest 10 balls I’ve faced. I couldn’t see the ball for some reason. I had a chat with [Muhammad Waseem] and said, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing’.
“I missed my first three balls then I thought, Let’s just try to take it deep, we are losing wickets at the other end so the more I stay the better it is.
“Once you are in on this wicket, it is slightly easier to hit. It is not easy starting.”
The excellence of Aravind and Meiyappan — two players who are recent graduates from the same UAE Under 19 side — delighted captain Ahmed Raza.
“Having youth in your team always brings fresh ideas,” Raza said. “There is no baggage of previous qualifiers or previous defeats, because they are so young.
“The adaptability they show to anything that comes our way is brilliant. For our team, with experience and youth it is a perfect mix for us.
“We have invested in Vriitya for the past three or four years now, if you include the U19 set up. He made his ODI debut in 2019, so even though he is only 19, he has a great head on his shoulders.
“It is great we showed that faith in him and we are certainly reaping the rewards now.”