Chirag Suri puts Netherlands heroics in past as UAE face Ireland in vital World Cup Qualifier
Chirag Suri might have been forgiven for thinking he could not put a foot wrong after the coming-of-age innings that put the UAE on the brink of the final phase of World Cup qualifying.
At morning nets at Old Hararians on the eve of Monday’s final first-round group match against Ireland, he was middling the ball just as he had three days earlier in his match-winning 78 not out against Netherlands.
Too well, in fact. He muscled one straight drive so far it went over a children’s playground, over the perimeter wall, and clattered into the door of a parked police car. Worse still, the officer was sat in the driver’s seat.
Happily, the policeman was uncomplaining, and Suri was free to carry on planning for the latest of what has seemingly become an endless run of crunch fixtures for UAE cricket.
A repeat of that effort against the Netherlands would be handy, but Suri knows he and his side are starting all over again against the Irish.
“Coach Dougie [Brown] said that such innings define your career,” Suri said. “Going forward, you always remember these innings. They are the ones that change your prospects, they are career-changing innings.
“I am really, really happy that it all fell into place, but the coach also said to me, ‘It’s done, Chirag – now you have to look forward’.
“That is what I am doing. I am trying to look forward to the Ireland game, obviously take whatever positives I can from the previous game. But it is a new game, so I have to start from ball one, starting from zero again.”
Despite being just 23 and having played just a lone one-day international, Suri knows he is often already a marked man, given he went to the Indian Premier League last year. He says he revels in the extra attention.
“There is obviously expectation,” Suri said. “The other day the Netherlands guys were saying, ‘OK, it’s up to the IPL boy now,’ when there were wickets falling at the other end.
“I enjoy that. I really like that. It pumps me up and gets me to focus more. The fact I am going in and I am expected to do well, I like that. Rather than me going out there and they think it’s a cheap wicket, I want it to be a big wicket.”
Suri is in the minority in the squad, having represented the UAE in a 50-over World Cup before. Only three of the 15-players in the UAE squad – Rohan Mustafa, Shaiman Anwar and Mohammed Naveed – went to the World Cup three years ago in Australia and New Zealand.
Compare that to Ireland: 10 of their 15 at this tournament in Zimbabwe featured at the World Cup, while Tim Murtagh was named in the initial squad but had to withdraw through injury.
Suri played for UAE in the Under 19 World Cup in 2014, in which the likes of Kagiso Rabada, Aiden Markram and Sami Aslam starred. He says the idea of doubling that age-group tournament with a trip to the senior event is exciting.
“We do get goose-bumps thinking about it,” Suri said. “After every game you are getting one step closer and the team is doing really well.
“We are really, really happy about that, but we are thinking about [getting] to the Super Six stage right now.
“Ireland is our next game, coming up tomorrow. I think we are all just focusing on that. The bigger picture, we all know what that is. Let’s just do it game by game. That is what the plan is in the team.”
If the game was played on paper, UAE would have no worries about advancing to the Super Sixes. West Indies would do a job on the Netherlands, making the national team’s result on Monday academic.
But the fixture against Ireland remains vital for two reasons. First, the UAE want to take care of their own business. Plus, if they do go through, the points from the fixture will count in the next phase.
Ireland have a formidable record against UAE, most recently beating them twice in Dubai before the national team left for the penultimate qualifying competition in Namibia last month.
But Adnan Mufti, the middle-order batsman, says his side want to start showing their worth by beating the big teams.
“If you want to be a top nation in ODI cricket you have to beat top nations,” Mufti said. “We are experienced enough for these things. We want to be a top cricket nation at the end of 2019 in Associate cricket.
“The format of the tournament means that game is crucial. If we won that game, we would take two points for the next stage. That would be very good for us.
“Irrespective of the result between West Indies and Netherlands, we have to give 200 per cent and win the game for our team.”