Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 1 April 2020

Coronavirus and a wedding - the story behind UAE batsman Chirag Suri's special day

India star Yuvraj Singh made it to the function in Jodhpur but many other guests were forced to cancel

Given how rapidly the world has changed in recent times, it is difficult to recollect precisely what life was like 11 days ago.

Chirag Suri remembers vividly what he was doing at that point. As well he should, seeing it was his wedding day.

The UAE cricketer was given special dispensation to miss national team training ahead of their scheduled tour to the United States, and flew to India instead.

March 13 was all set to be a fairy-tale ceremony, at Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur, the venue that hosted the marriage of Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas last year.

This one was touched with stardust, too. Yuvraj Singh, the India great, was due to be among the congregation.

And he made it there, too, even though many other guests had to cancel.

“Luckily everything came together before the coronavirus [restrictions became more widespread], because we had guests flying in from everywhere,” Suri said. “If it had been now, it wouldn’t have happened.”

Suri flew on March 7. Schools in the UAE would officially close from the following day, but the measures against the spread of coronavirus in terms of travel limitations were still relatively minimal at that stage.

“As I left, the scare was just starting,” Suri said.

“I remember going to training and taking my hand sanitiser. That is what the level was at at that point.

“When I left, I didn’t shake anyone’s hand, then accidentally went for a high five and immediately hand sanitised.

“I got a message a week later saying we were stopping training because of coronavirus.

“I thought I would miss a week’s training, then come back, but I didn’t miss anything. I was supposed to go for my honeymoon, but everything is cancelled now.”

Suri and his bride Anmol were due to fly to Milan, travel through Italy to Switzerland, then fly out of Zurich.

Clearly, that became impossible, and his Dubai reception – which was planned for the conclusion of the now-postponed UAE tour to Florida ­– next month seems certain to go the same way.

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The 25-year-old is just grateful that the main event was able to go ahead.

And it was a good job Anmol, who is operations manager for a Dubai-based company, had said “yes”.

Some years ago, her new husband had had her name vividly inscribed on his forearm in the form of a tattoo.

“As a cricketer, it is great to have somebody there when you come home, who you can share everything with,” Suri said.

“And she is a really big cricket fan. Massive. She doesn’t miss any India games, or any of my matches either.

“She goes into detail. She’ll say: ‘Chirag, why are you playing the reverse sweep? You just get out playing this shot.’

“Now her father is telling me not to play the reverse sweep, too.

"I got out doing it a couple of times, then I went to their house and they were asking what I was thinking.

“They said: ‘Now just stop playing this shot’. I’m going to have to because the wife said not to. She knows cricket too well.”

Yuvraj has basically been mentoring me for the past six months

Chirag Suri

Whether Anmol’s advice supersedes that of Yuvraj is open to question, though.

Suri says the former India star has been like a mentor to him since the two were teammates together in the Global T20 Canada last summer – hence his appearance at the ceremony.

“We had 20 or 30 cancellations at the wedding, but luckily all the close ones made it, and Yuvraj was there,” Suri said.

“He was the captain of my team in Toronto, and when he came to UAE for [Abu Dhabi] T10 we spoke again.

“We are close. He is a very lovely guy. These guys have no personal time.

"If somebody comes up to speak to him at a personal time, and he says, ‘Look, boss, I’m eating right now,’ people perceive that as arrogant.

“But he is a very kind guy. I have learnt so much from him. He has basically been mentoring me for the past six months.”

In those six months, Suri has emerged as a key player in a UAE side that is still recovering from the turmoil of six senior players being banned for corruption last year.

“I was in a very good space with my batting from September onwards, but a lot of things were happening around the team,” Suri said.

“Before the qualifier, I have not hit the ball as well as I was doing at that point.

"Even in Muscat in the last tournament [Asia Cup qualifying, when Suri was the UAE’s leading run-scorer], I wasn’t hitting the ball as well.

“But so many things happened around us. There was so much negativity. I was getting starts, but I didn’t think I justified how I was feeling at that moment.

“I was thinking about too many other things rather than just watching the ball.”

Before the sport was forced into lockdown, Suri had been in fine form.

He was the national team’s leading batsman as they progressed to the the next phase of Asia Cup qualifying.

Only three players have scored more runs than him in T20 international cricket so far this year.

“It is about a change in mentality,” Suri said, crediting the influence of new UAE coach Robin Singh for his improved form.

“Robin told me I was one of the main batters, and he gave that ownership to me.

“I hadn’t felt that before. At nets, you can see who has got what ability. Robin said to me, ‘If you score runs, we will win matches’.

“I have gone into every match with that mindset since.”

Updated: March 25, 2020 03:11 PM

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