New UAE recruit Aryansh Sharma dreams of debut amid ‘home’ vibes in Nepal

Teenage wicketkeeper batter has joined senior team for the first time for vital tri-series in Kathmandu

UAE's Aryansh Sharma during the Cricket World Cup League 2 match against Papua New Guinea in Kathmandu, Nepal, on Friday, March 10 2023. Subas Humagain for The National
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Given the gloom that has pervaded the senior men’s UAE cricket team of late, a new dash of colour and can-do spirit should be embraced keenly.

On his first tour with the senior side, Aryansh Sharma is already providing both. The 18-year-old wicketkeeper-batter served 12th-man duties with all the eagerness you might expect of a teenaged trialist, in UAE’s loss against Papua New Guinea in the opening match of their tour to Kathmandu on Friday.

His mint-green boots provide the sparkle. And his enthusiasm to make an impression is just as vivid.

Sharma does not know whether he will get the chance to play in the vital Cricket World Cup League 2 tri-series, but he is grateful to be in with a shout.

Last week, he was part of the UAE side who missed out on qualification for the Under 19 World Cup after a thrilling, if ultimately heartbreaking, game against Nepal in Ajman.

He found out he was set to tour Nepal with the senior team after making a half-century against Singapore in that event.

“It felt amazing because I was the only guy from the U19 side this time who made it into the men’s team,” Sharma said.

“It was overwhelming, and I would like to get a debut game for the team as well now. If I get that, I will try to perform my best.

“I had some nerves but then we had a team meeting and all my new teammates were very friendly with me. From that time onwards I have felt very confident.

“Since then I am just hoping that we win and hopefully we can do well in the series.”

Their start was a poor one. The national team suffered a third consecutive defeat to PNG in the space of two weeks when they went lost out at Tribhuvan University.

They face Nepal at the same venue on Sunday knowing they have to win that, as well as the remaining two games which follow, to safeguard their one-day international status.

Anything less will mean having to vie for that right with PNG, Jersey and Canada at the World Cup Qualifier Play-off in Namibia later this month.

Given the stress of what is at stake, Sharma is glad to have a few familiar faces around for his debut tour.

He is a first-year student at Manipal Academy of Higher Education in Dubai, a seat of learning that has also been attended by fellow tourists Ashwanth Valthapa, Karthik Meiyappan and Aryan Lakra.

Plus, there is fellow teen Aayan Khan, who was his captain in the U19s side last week.

“We were teammates in the last [U19 World Cup in the Caribbean] and in the U19 [Qualifier] he was my captain,” Sharma said.

“It is good to share a dressing room with him and I have got to learn a lot from him because he is a regular senior player. It is good to be around him.

“When I see him, it makes me feel like the U19 kids also have the potential to get into the UAE men’s team, and do really well. Seeing him do that inspired me.

“From now onwards, the journey begins for me, and hopefully I can have a very good cricketing journey.”

Sharma, who lists his new teammate Vriitya Aravind alongside Virat Kohli among his role models in cricket, was born in Ghaziabad, near Delhi, but came to UAE with his family aged two.

He says his initial impressions of Kathmandu remind him of his birthplace.

“Where I am from in India, this place is similar to that,” Sharma said.

“It gives me the vibes of my own place. I feel like Nepal is also my home, so it would be good to play over here. Hopefully, I get a game.

“Nepal and India are similar to each other. If I see anywhere in this country, I feel like, OK, this is similar to India. I feel at home.”

Updated: March 11, 2023, 6:47 AM