Darius Del Piero D'Silva's 9,000km journey to bolster UAE's T20 World Cup qualifier hopes

All-rounder joins team from Australia after late call-up over the weekend

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - October 14, 2019: The UAE's Darius D'Silva during the ICC Mens T20 World cup qualifier warm up game between the UAE and Scotland. Monday the 14th of October 2019. International Cricket Stadium, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

When UAE sent out an 11th hour call 9,000km away to Darius D’Silva in Australia over the weekend, he was only too happy to oblige.

As a designated elite athlete at Curtin University in Perth, he gets special dispensation to miss his engineering and commerce lectures to play international sport.

Which meant he could drop everything – as soon as his Saturday cricket was finished, anyway – and jet to Dubai to help the national team’s effort to qualify for the T20 World Cup.

The 21-year-old all-rounder already has an affinity with World Cups. He has done since birth, in fact.

He was born in Dubai just before the 1998 football World Cup in France. His father Lester – a sports obsessive and dyed-in-the-wool Juventus fan – wanted his son’s middle name to reflect his passion.

His full name, which must be among the coolest in the sport, is Darius Del Piero D’Silva. Until a player comes along with the middle name Pirlo it is unlikely to be matched.

“Sport is massive in my family, and dad obviously wanted a bit of that in there,” D’Silva said.

Father Lester is unsure whether his son fully appreciates Del Piero’s magnificence as a footballer just yet.

“Up until now, he has never realised,” Lester said, speaking on the phone from Perth.

“It is a bit of a sad thing, because you can pick a name for your child and it can either be a good or a bad thing, and they are stuck with it for the rest of their lives.

“I am a Juventus fan and loved Del Piero. I never thought Darius would be a cricketer, I had always wanted him to play soccer.

“It was easy picking his middle name. Del Piero fitted well between Darius and D’Silva. He became Triple D.”

D’Silva did show promise as a goalkeeper at Dubai English Speaking School in Oud Metha, before the family relocated to Perth when he was 11.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - October 14, 2019: The UAE's Darius D'Silva during the ICC Mens T20 World cup qualifier warm up game between the UAE and Scotland. Monday the 14th of October 2019. International Cricket Stadium, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

He had a talent for hockey, too, which also follows the family bloodline. His grandfather and uncle on his mother’s side both played hockey for India, with the latter an Olympian in 1988 in Seoul.

And yet it is cricket which made him an international sportsman. He debuted for the UAE on tour in the Netherlands in the summer, after only coming to the selectors’ attention by chance.

He first learnt cricket aged six at the Dubai academy run by former UAE bowler Shahzad Altaf, which was the alma mater of national team players Chirag Suri, Ahmed Raza and Rameez Shahzad.

In April, he was looking for cricket in the Australian off-season, so contacted his old mates in Dubai.

That set off a sequence of events that led to him being seen by UAE coach Dougie Brown, who was suitably impressed.

“I got in contact with my old coach Shahzad, and Rameez [Altaf’s son] is in the side as well,” D’Silva said.

“That is how I got through to Dougie. From then on, I was in contact, came down and had a trial, and everything just flew from there.

“I just came down to get some cricket in me, as there wasn’t any is Australia at the time, but this has taken off.

“It has been an unbelievable experience, especially to be here playing in the Qualifier now.”

D’Silva flew to Dubai on Saturday night, having been summoned after the shock withdrawal of three senior players, Mohammed Naveed, Shaiman Anwar and Qadeer Ahmed.

“It is lovely to have Darius here from Australia, after he played so well in the bilateral tournament in the Netherlands,” Brown said.

“He has been playing really good grade cricket in Australia. Although he is only a young guy, he has played a lot of cricket at a very high level, and he adds balance to our side.”

As the UAE bid to make it to Australia en masse next year, via the qualifying competition starting in Abu Dhabi on Friday, they already have a cheer squad over there.

“One of the reasons we moved to Australia was for his future and his ability to pursue cricket,” Lester said of his son.

“He has been blessed every step of the way. He has worked really hard, and it has worked out.

“Whatever he has achieved is entirely down to his own efforts. He has worked his backside off, and he appreciates this opportunity he has got.”

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