Chirag Suri says the UAE’s leading cricketers will be fulfilling a dream when the national team plays at a World Cup for the first time in seven years.
The side will return to the top stage when they face the Netherlands at Kardinia Park in Geelong on Sunday.
Of the 15-man tour party in Australia, only Ahmed Raza has any experience of playing at global event at senior level, having featured in the 2014 World T20.
“The guys are excited to be out here in Australia, as it is nothing short of a dream for all of the guys,” Suri, the UAE opener, said.
“We have come close a couple of times and missed out. Now to be in Australia in 2022 for the World Cup, we are super excited.
“There are nerves, of course. It is a big tournament with lots riding on it, and we don’t get opportunities like this all the time. For us, it is good platform and we are looking forward to it.”
The UAE will need to navigate preliminary round matches against the Dutch, Sri Lanka and Namibia if they are to make the main phase of the tournament.
Whether they advance or not, at least CP Rizwan can already say he has shared the top stage with the greats of the game.
The new skipper was part of the captain’s photo call in Melbourne on Saturday. Sharing the dais with the likes of Babar Azam, Rohit Sharma and Jos Buttler must have been surreal.
“It’s always an honour to lead your country and it’s even more special to lead in a World Cup,” Rizwan said.
“I am grateful to the Almighty. I have always dreamt of playing in a World Cup, so getting an opportunity to do that representing your country is special.
“But having said that we have not just come here for the World Cup to compete. We are here to make an impact and express ourselves and showcase our skillset in a bigger platform, Inshallah.”
Rizwan had only just arrived in the country from his native Kerala when UAE played at the T20 World Cup for the first time in 2014.
Suri, by contrast, had been through the ranks of age-group representative cricket and played a role in the successful qualifying campaign for the 2015 50-over World Cup.
He missed the final cut for that event, and says this chance has been a long-time coming.
“In seven years, a lot of things have happened,” Suri said.
“There have been changes, and finally we are getting the chance to be here. The guys have worked hard over the past couple of years.
“It is not just the case that we have just arrived over here. We have worked hard and put in good performances, and deserve to be here.”
Whether the experience so far has been quite what the players envisaged when they won qualification in Muscat back in February is questionable.
Presumably, they dreamt of playing the stars of the game in the heat of Australia, while wearing the national team grey.
Australia has taken some acclimatising to, though. In the training games they played against club opposition early in this tour, some players fielded in hoodies, so fresh were the temperatures.
In recent days, central Victoria has also been afflicted by floods. The Barwon River, which meanders to within a few hundred metres of Kardinia Stadium, where the games will be played, has risen to 4.5 metres higher than its usual levels.
Then there is the kit. Rather than the traditional grey, UAE will be playing in cerise and violet – much to the delight of the players, according to Suri.
“I think it is a nice change, I really quite like it,” Suri said.
“We are colourful for the first time. The guys have liked it. It has had a good response from everyone.
“Fresh kit, fresh team, and we are looking for fresh performances.”