Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 6 August 2020

Vriitya Aravind skips school to make 'dream' debut as youngest ever UAE team falls short against USA

National team defeated by three wickets in World Cup League Two opener

File photo of UAE batsman Vriitya Aravind who was hit on teh head by a bouncer against USA in Dubai. Satish Kumar for The National
File photo of UAE batsman Vriitya Aravind who was hit on teh head by a bouncer against USA in Dubai. Satish Kumar for The National

Vriitya Aravind might have been excused for feeling trepidation when he found out the night before his one-day international debut that he would be opening the batting.

And that, too, against a fast-bowler he had watched playing in the Indian Premier League.

Not a bit of it. The 17-year-old wicketkeeper was already chuffed that he had been given time off school to answer the call for the UAE national team.

And playing against the United States in the first UAE match in the new World Cup League Two meant he could skip a test for his psychology A-level, too. It was win-win.

“I had a psychology test today, that I didn’t have go to,” said Aravind, who is a pupil at Kings Al Barsha in Dubai.

“I sent them a letter. They hate me being outside school, but I think they are also proud because I play for the country.

“I told them I had been selected for the UAE team, and they are really happy about it, and said I could go.”

Aravind will miss the best part of two months now, as he is also an integral part of the UAE side bound for the Under 19 World Cup in South Africa next month.

“I have my A-levels coming soon, but my school have been really supportive,” Aravind said. “They have given me all my work, and I am doing that when I can at the team hotel.”

He is studying PE, business and psychology. The latter will have been particularly handy when he was thrust straight into the action, opening the batting against Rusty Theron.

“Our skipper called me [on Saturday night] and told me I was opening, and I was really excited,” Aravind said.

“It was perfect: debut, and opening the batting, I was happy with that. I open in domestic cricket, so it is not new for me. I enjoy facing fast bowlers in the power-play overs, so it is fine.”

His first runs in international cricket came via an edge off Saurabh Netravalkar, the USA captain, which managed to find its way through Ian Holland at first slip.

Saurabh Netravalkar took five wickets for 32 runs against the UAE. Satish Kumar for The National 
Saurabh Netravalkar took five wickets for 32 runs against the UAE. Satish Kumar for The National 

“As soon as I nicked it, I didn’t even want to look back,” Aravind said. “I thought I was gone. First game, out for a duck.

"Then I saw Chirag [Suri, his opening partner] saying, ‘Yes, run, run’. I thought, at last, I have a run.

“I was a bit nervous for the first eight balls, opening the batting, and playing against guys you have seen on TV, like Rusty Theron who I watched play IPL.”

Aravind said he was annoyed not to make a score of note after making a start as he reached 16, before edging behind. That is just the sort of attitude that will appeal to Dougie Brown, the UAE coach.

They were fielding a side with the youngest average age ever for a UAE national team, with Aravind joined by fellow teen Karthik Meiyappan, and 21-year-old Darius D’Silva in making an ODI debut.

Besides them, there were three other debutants – Waheed Ahmed, Junaid Siddique and Basil Hameed.

UAE bowler Junaid Siddique. Satish Kumar for The National
UAE bowler Junaid Siddique. Satish Kumar for The National

Despite their collective youth, Brown said there were no excuses for the three-wicket defeat to the United States.

The UAE opted to bat first after a start delayed by overnight rain at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.

Mohammed Usman made 59 not out, but was left stranded as UAE fell to 202 all out, with Netravalkar taking five wickets.

Aaron Jones top scored with 95 as USA chased the target with 10 balls of their revised 47 overs left.

“We had a senior team with lots of very, very accomplished players, but we don’t have that anymore,” Brown said.

“We have a whole bunch of young, exciting prospects. Asking them to come to in and play at the top of their games straight away against a strong side is a challenge.

“But I’m not going to use any excuse as to how inexperienced this team is. We have a good team. We have some very exciting young players, they just need to be given time to find their feet at this level.”

Updated: December 8, 2019 08:01 PM

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