Chirag Suri is the new kid on the block for UAE cricket.
The 18-year-old batsman has been included in the senior national team for next month’s ICC 50-over-a-side World Cup Qualifier in New Zealand, a competition that sees two teams from 10 nations try to take the last two spots at the 2015 World Cup Australia and New Zealand.
“I am definitely feeling good about it,” Suri said of his call-up. “The selection to the senior national team was a bit of a surprise. However, I am really pleased with myself and just want to keep doing well.”
Suri emerged under the watchful eye of Aaqib Javed, the UAE coach, during a three-month training stint with the youth team preparing for the Under 19 World Cup, which the Emirates will host in February.
“He has the potential, and players like him are the future of UAE cricket. I hope he can continue to work hard and fulfil the promise he has shown to us,” Aaqib said.
Suri was promoted to open for the UAE in the recently concluded U19 tri-series with England and Pakistan. He proved his worth with some noteworthy knocks, scoring 70, eight and 36 against England and 35, 34 and 24 against Pakistan.
“The new role added a little pressure and responsibility,” Suri said. “I usually bat at No 3 or 4, but I have taken the new role with both hands to focus on my batting.
“The coach felt I should open because he has seen me and has a lot of belief on me.”
Suri said he believes the tri-series was good experience ahead of the Asian Cricket Council U19 Asia Cup, which starts today when the UAE play India in Sharjah.
“We managed to pull off an upset over England,” he said. “That’s what we were looking for, a couple of good games from the six matches. I think we did pretty well, even in defeat.”
Suri was five years old when his father, Jatinder, took him for the first time to a cricket ground in New Delhi.
“I got hooked,” he said. “I enjoyed it and then started to play inside the house. My dad saw the interest I had developed and then he encouraged me to play and later sent me for formal coaching.”
Suri arrived in Dubai nine years ago.
“I played in the school and inter-academy competitions since I was 11. I am glad I have taken that forward at all age levels and now for the UAE age group team,” he said.
He joined the Young Talents Cricket Academy, where he was trained by former UAE player Shahzad Altaf and Peter Lazarus, his coach, at the Repton Dubai school.
“They were very supportive,” Suri said. “They spent a lot of time with me, and now the national team coach [Aaqib] as well as his support staff is fine-tuning my game as well as my fitness.”
Suri credits his emergence partly to improved fitness after realising he was overweight when he entered the UAE age group trials in 2009.
“I felt out of place with the other players, and that’s the time I decided I needed to do something. I started working harder, spending more time in the gym and taking care of my diet,” he said.
Suri sees the Asia Cup as another competition in which to demonstrate the UAE youth team’s steady improvement. The match with India is followed by a meeting with Pakistan on Sunday and Nepal on December 31 at Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
“The Asia Cup is another acid test for us against two of the strongest teams in world cricket,” Suri said. “We have been working very hard for this, and hopefully we can do well.
“I would also love to get some runs in New Zealand, if I get the opportunity. I have to start knocking at the door in the senior side and the best way forward is to score runs.
“There are a lot of tournaments coming up for the senior team, plus the U19 World Cup. The future looks good for me in the UAE.”
And Suri is not the only sporting prospect in his family. His younger brother Harman plays tennis and is ranked third in the Under 16 age group in the UAE.