One of the UAE’s leading cricketers has turned down an approach from India to play at the Indoor Cricket World Cup in favour of turning out for his adopted country instead.
Vikrant Shetty will complete a double of representing the UAE in the indoor format of the World Cup, having already done so in the Twenty20 version outdoors, when the event takes place in Dubai next month.
That is assuming he makes the final cut. The national team’s extended squad will be in training this week at Insportz, Dubai, which will be the venue for the tournament from September 16 to 20.
The 33-year-old all-rounder was born in Mumbai. He divided his schooling between India and Dubai, before completing his further education, as well as all his working life to date in the UAE.
His decision to opt for his current home rather than his birth one was driven by both a familiarity with the players in the UAE side, as well as the practicalities of the workplace.
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“I was offered to play for India, on the condition I go for a camp in Bangalore,” Shetty said. “I had the option to play for India and UAE, the reasons being I would have had to take leave to go to Bangalore, and also because the UAE team is filled with players from my club.
“It feels like an easy fit when you have players from the same team. It seemed like a stronger team than India. Knowing the players, knowing how strong they are here, as well as the fact I would have had to take leave, meant I chose UAE.”
Shetty is well used to wearing UAE colours on the big stage. He made his one-day international debut in Lahore in the 2008 Asia Cup, played at the 2014 World T20 in Bangladesh, and was part of the side who earned qualification for the 2015 50-over World Cup.
He concedes he did consider switching his allegiance to India for next month's event, and said he would not have even had to think about it if a similar offer had been made in the outdoor version.
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“It was a tough decision, because the fact getting the chance to play for India in any format is a big thing,” he said.
“It was choice I had to make. I know the indoor team is not the same as the outdoor team. If it was the Indian outdoor team, I would not have thought twice – I would probably have quit my job for it!
“In terms of fan following, and the number of players who are playing, I don’t know if they have that for indoor cricket in India.
“I have played outdoors for UAE, but not in the indoor format, so I thought why not give it a shot.”
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Despite Shetty’s decision, the India side are still likely to retain a significant UAE influence.
Their team are being managed and operated by a company based in the UAE, Petromann Events, while Anis Sajan, a leading benefactor of the game here, has been appointed as the side’s mentor.
Sajan has employed a variety of the UAE’s leading cricketers in recent times, via his Danube corporation team, which was initially focused on indoor cricket.
“I have always believed that if you have passion when combined with knowledge and fueled by resources you can become a force to reckon with,” Sajan said. “That is exactly what I will be sharing with the Indian squad.”
As well as India and the UAE, the World Cup will involve sides from New Zealand, South Africa, England, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Malaysia, plus Australia, who have won the competition on each of the nine times it has been staged to date.