Although he saw no game time for the Gujarat Lions, the batsman says learning from likes of Brendon McCullum, Aaron Finch and Suresh Raina will serve him well on tour of The Netherlands.
Chirag Suri ready to roar into action for UAE after IPL experience
Chirag Suri’s Indian Premier League adventure started with tears of joy when he was recruited by Gujarat Lions on auction day in February.
Outsiders might assume it ended in frustration. The 22-year-old batsman did not get on the field during the 14 matches his side played.
By the end of it, Gujarat were playing with only three of the four places for overseas players filled, while they limped to second-last in the table.
Their UAE international was overlooked for service, but he was not overcome by disappointment. Not in the slightest.
“Obviously, when you are in with a chance of playing in a league like the IPL, you are waiting for that chance to come,” Suri said.
“If it doesn’t come, it is nothing to be disappointed about. A few of the other teams only played three overseas players, too. It is all about form, and the balance of the team.
“At the top of the order, we were still scoring 200 runs, but we were being chased. In that case, how could we play another batsman? It was a case of strengthening the bowling attack.
“I would have loved to have had the opportunity, but to be out there in the IPL was a spectacular experience for me.”
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Just being there got Suri noticed. Until his shock recruitment to cricket’s biggest competition, his international career had been listing.
After graduating from a sparkling age-group career for the UAE, he had had the occasional chance for the senior team, without forcing his case for permanent inclusion.
Having been thrust into the limelight in a way no UAE cricketer has done before, he now has a target on his back, but he is thriving because of the increased expectation.
On the field, he has hardly failed since returning to cricket after the IPL. Having not played a match in over two months in India, he was itching to make the most of his opportunities. He scored 69 not out in his first match back, and made a string of half-centuries thereafter.
“All the players, even the umpires, tell me that now I am looking different, I am looking apart from the rest,” he said.
“It is nice to hear that, especially from umpires who have probably seen me since I was 11 or 12 years old.”
His form earned him a recall to the UAE squad for a series of three 50-over matches in the Netherlands next week. He is likely to open the innings, and he wants to make this opportunity count.
“One of the days at nets, Dougie [Brown, the new UAE coach] told me: ‘I want you to focus now and be ready. You are going to be told officially, but you are going’,” Suri said of his recall.
“It feels good that your performances are being recognised. After coming back from the IPL, all of my performances have been taken note of.
“If it had been the other way round, that I had come back and didn’t get runs, it would have been a different story altogether.
“I am happy that I have been able to live up to the expectation in a way. That definitely feels good.”
Even though he has yet to establish himself in the national team, Suri is an example to his senior colleagues.
That is the view of Brown, the coach who will be overseeing his first series in permanent charge of the national team. He believes the young batsman has stuck “a flag in the ground” for players here.
If UAE cricketers have the ambition of playing in some of the world’s biggest cricket leagues, they should now believe they can get noticed, thanks to Suri.
“Can we be in a position to have our players going off to play in major tournaments around the world? We have seen Chirag do it,” Brown said.
“He didn’t play any cricket, but there are other ones who could go away and play, whether it be Big Bash, CPL [Caribbean Premier League], BPL [Bangladesh Premier League], or IPL. We have players who are good enough to do that.”
The benefits would be many. Suri wrote down notes of things he learnt from the likes of Brendon McCullum, Aaron Finch and Suresh Raina in India. He is looking forward to trying to implement them in UAE colours.
“There is not a lot of technical stuff, it is more mental,” he said. “From what I spoke to the players over there about, it is about doing the right things consistently.
“That is the key for me: working on scoring consistent runs. Especially at the start of the innings, I am concentrating on staying balanced.
“That is what I have learnt from these guys. Even though I knew these things, it is still hard to do it. I worked on that, and worked on it, and worked on it.”