Vriitya Aravind: ‘It’s surreal. I’m aware I’m competing with 1.4 billion fans in India’

UAE’s teen prodigy on scoring a first ODI ton in front of his parents and going up against Shreyas Iyer for an ICC award

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A maiden one-day international century before he has turned 20. A player of the tournament award from that time he razed the competition while guiding his country to World Cup qualification.

Cricket World Cup League 2

UAE results
Lost to Oman by eight runs
Beat Namibia by three wickets
Lost to Oman by 12 runs
Beat Namibia by 43 runs

UAE fixtures
Free admission. All fixtures broadcast live on icc.tv

Tuesday March 15, v PNG at Sharjah Cricket Stadium
Friday March 18, v Nepal at Dubai International Stadium
Saturday March 19, v PNG at Dubai International Stadium
Monday March 21, v Nepal at Dubai International Stadium

And, now, vying for a global award with an Indian Premier League captain who is one of the biggest stars in the sport’s most populous nation.

There are plenty of reasons for which Vriitya Aravind might be excused for getting ahead of himself. If he is, he has a funny way of showing it.

When he went to his first ODI ton, in UAE’s win over Namibia in Sharjah on Saturday, he only coyly accepted the acclaim that was ever-so-deservingly coming his way.

He raised his arms and his bat, first in the direction of his teammates, and then cast a glance up to where his mum and dad were sat in the pavilion. It was a knowing look, which said: “Told you so … and thanks.”

“We went to Namibia but we didn’t have any games,” Aravind said of the UAE’s tour to Windhoek in November, which was aborted because of the onset of the omicron variant.

“I had told my parents I was going to get my first century against Namibia in that series, but it never happened. It was a good feeling to do it against Namibia this time, because I had promised them.

“That is why I looked up at them, to say, ‘Yes, I got there.’”

Despite already being two and a half years in to his international cricket career, Aravind is still just 19. He was fished out of lessons at Kings School Al Barsha in 2019 to make his debut at Sharjah Cricket Stadium.

There is a theme, here. When he made his first century, at the same ground this weekend, he was missing lectures. In fact, it has been five months since he was last studying in person at Loughborough, which is the UK’s premier university for sport.

Clearly, that hackneyed stereotype about Indian parents being overbearing when it comes to their kids’ education does not apply to his mum and dad.

Sashirekha and Rudhravel are loving life watching their son play cricket instead. In just the past month alone, thrills have been plenty.

Sharjah, December, 08 2019:  Vritiya Aravind of UAE against USA during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup League 2 match at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium in Sharjah . Satish Kumar/ For the National / Story by Paul Radley

They were there in Muscat when Aravind guided UAE – at points almost singlehandedly – to qualification for the T20 World Cup in Australia later this month.

Having seen all the major business in that competition, they flew home to Dubai. Then father Rudhravel found out there was a player of the tournament award set to be handed out after the final, so he got on the first plane back to Muscat. It was not a wasted trip: Aravind was the only real contender.

So outstanding was he in that competition, he was nominated for the ICC’s player of the month for February, becoming the first UAE player to be considered for that award.

He is going up against Nepal’s Dipendra Singh Airee and Kolkata Knight Riders captain-come-India batsman Shreyas Iyer. Which, he says, is odd.

“That feels surreal,” Aravind said. “I saw the post, saying I was up against Shreyas Iyer and Dipendra Airee, and I was stunned. Just being nominated is really nice.

“I’m aware I am competing with 1.4 billion fans in India in the voting. It doesn’t really matter what happens, but hopefully I can continue my form and start winning games for my team.”

Some of the shots he played during his century against Namibia might have been staggering, were it not for the fact they are basically his standard.

“The way he bats, he just takes the pressure off the other guy,” said Chirag Suri, with whom Aravind shared a partnership worth 105 on Saturday, and one worth 180 against Oman last month.

“He is fearless. He makes the bowling look easy. The way he is batting is a big plus for us. Now he has his first ODI century, and I feel there is so much to learn from him as well.

“He is also getting that experience now, and learning how to convert those starts. To be playing such impactful innings at such a young age is amazing.”

Chirag Suri has described his UAE teammate Vriitya Aravind as "fearless". Chris Whiteoak / The National

Young he may be, but Aravind is already benefitting from the experience he has garnered over the past two years. Like realising that, when you come to the wicket with your side at 151 for one wicket down, and the pitch is flatter than Sheikh Zayed Road, it is time to cash in.

“In the last few series I’ve been getting a lot of 30s, and I felt I had to convert it,” Aravind said. “This was the perfect situation. The platform was set. I have been going in a little early, and I have had that pressure on me, but this time I could bat as freely as possible.

“Usually, when the first wicket goes after 150-odd, people can be relaxed. I like to go in as soon as possible. I cherish batting from the start, against the new ball.

“This was a different experience. I have never gone in to bat in the 28th over before. It kind of worked out, which was a nice feeling.”

Updated: March 14, 2022, 3:33 AM
Cricket World Cup League 2

UAE results
Lost to Oman by eight runs
Beat Namibia by three wickets
Lost to Oman by 12 runs
Beat Namibia by 43 runs

UAE fixtures
Free admission. All fixtures broadcast live on icc.tv

Tuesday March 15, v PNG at Sharjah Cricket Stadium
Friday March 18, v Nepal at Dubai International Stadium
Saturday March 19, v PNG at Dubai International Stadium
Monday March 21, v Nepal at Dubai International Stadium