Vriitya Aravind equals Shahid Afridi record with match-winning ton for UAE in Texas

Teenager records his second ODI century as national team sign off tour with victory over United States

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Vriitya Aravind entered an exclusive group of just two other players after notching the second one-day international century of his career.

The wicketkeeper batter hit the winning runs to take the UAE to an eight-wicket victory over the United States in Cricket World Cup League 2 in Texas, and went to 102 not out in the process.

It meant he became just the third player in history, after Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi and Ahmed Shahzad, to score two ODIs centuries while still a teenager.

Aravind, who turns 20 on Saturday, said he had been set the target of a second ton by his father.

His dad, Rudhravel, and mum, Sashirekha, were in Texas to see it happen, just as they had been when he scored his first century – 13,000kms closer to home, in Sharjah against Namibia in March.

“My dad said, ‘You have to score a hundred in US so you have two before you turn 20, that is a big milestone to achieve’,” Aravind said. “I said, ‘Alright, I will try my best.’ To have my parents there was good. They come wherever I am to watch.

“They are planning to book a flight to Australia [when UAE play at the T20 World Cup in October]. They have been having a good time.”

The fact Aravind achieved the feat against United States felt apt. He had been plucked out of lessons at school to make his international debut against the same opposition, in Sharjah in 2019.

“The first runs I scored in international cricket was an edge through the slips off Saurabh Netravalkar past Xavier Marshall,” Aravind recalled of his debut.

“Turning it around to now score a hundred on their soil feels good, and it just feels good to contribute to the team’s success. Coming into form in the two games that we won, that is the main thing.”

Back in 2019, a call up to play international cricket had got Aravind out of a psychology test at school.

He had no such luck this time around. Instead of flying back to Dubai with the rest of his teammates after the series in Texas, he will be heading back to Loughborough University in the UK – and straight into a psychology exam.

He acknowledges he is going to be a little underprepared, with a lack of time for revision while on tour.

“It has been pretty hard,” Aravind said. “I’ve been rooming with Ahmed Raza, then the other youngsters like Alishan [Sharafu] and Karthik [Meiyappan] have been my close friends since I was young, so it has been pretty difficult to study with them around.

“I haven’t really prepared, so I felt like I had better to go out and score a hundred just to feel I at least had something to look back on.”

Having his mum and dad on tour in Texas was handy for an admin reason, too. It will help ease any excess baggage issues he might have had travelling back with yet more awards.

He was named player of the match for the century against United States, and player of the series, too.

He had also scored a half-century in a run-chase in the previous game against Scotland, with his form inspiring victories in consecutive days, after the side had started the tour with a pair of defeats.

UAE captain Ahmed Raza lavished praise on Vriitya Aravind following his historic century. Chris Whiteoak / The National

“In the first two games I had decent starts but didn’t convert it,” Aravind said. “It was a case of getting used to the new conditions. It is not like Dubai. Here the wind keeps changing direction and it was pretty challenging.

“But because I was getting good starts I knew I was hitting the ball pretty well. I just had to give myself more time at the crease. The game against Scotland gave me a template for how to play.”

Raza, the UAE captain, lavished praise on his roommate for inspiring the team’s turnaround.

“I am out of superlatives for him,” Raza said. “After the series he had in the [T20 World Cup] qualifier, then to come here and get another player of the series award, he is just a quality batter.

“We have all seen that. The maturity he showed in the last two games was really good to see.”

Updated: June 05, 2022, 6:35 AM
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