A dashing opener, who has been in top form especially in the shortest format for United Arab Emirates (UAE), Chirag Suri registered scores of 15*, 51, 75, 38 and 60 in the recently concluded ACC Western Region T20 in Oman, where his side won all the five matches. Suri has been one of the mainstays for his team since making his debut as an 18-year-old six years ago. Since then, he has played in the Under-19 World Cup, limited-overs cricket, couple of first-class matches, T10 League and also in the Global T20 League in Canada. The 25-year-old has shown a lot of promise and has the hunger to learn - something that keeps him motivated.
The Delhi-born cricketer has been fascinated with the game right from a very young age when his father often took him to the Feroz Shah Kotla to watch Test matches and also the IPL. Little did he know then that he would go on to be picked to play in the tournament – by Gujarat Lions – in the 2017 IPL auction. “It’s one of the big accolades of my small career so far,” Suri said in a chat with Cricket.com.
“Definitely a proud feeling for…I think any young cricketer if you ask them what you want do and at the drop of the hat, they’ll say I want to play in the IPL. For a person like me and my family it was a proud moment to be picked up in a tournament which features the best players in the world undoubtedly. It’s a good feeling and I’ll try and I’m going to push that in the coming years I get a spot and go for crores of rupees.”
Even though Suri did not have the opportunity to play a game in the cash-rich league, he still keeps in touch with some of the players from his team including his captain Suresh Raina and is keen to be back in the tournament soon. “I am in touch with some of the guys, especially the younger guys – Shivil Kaushik – he became a good friend of mine. Of course there were others – Ishan Kishan and all these guys as well. Even Suresh Raina I’m in touch with,” reveals Suri, who has been working closely with his coach Umesh Patwal during the lockdown.
Having spent time in the dressing room with the likes of Raina and Aaron Finch was among the many highlights of the tournament for him. “Honestly, it is a good feeling to be around them and see what their mindset and their attitude is towards the game. They’re just good at doing the simple things better than most of the guys consistently – that’s what makes them the top cricketers of the world. It’s not very different, it’s only a game of bat and ball, right?
“At the end of the day the person who is the most consistent…and these guys have done it in the highest of pressure consistently in a number of games. That’s why they are the best. That’s what you get to learn from them,” Suri further says.
Former Pakistan fast bowler Aaqib Javed is someone who initially backed Suri even in his teens and one of the reasons he was drafted into the side for the 2014 World Cup Qualifiers in New Zealand, where he made his debut against Kenya.
“Aaqib Javed was really the person who broke down cricket for me. He said don’t complicate this game. This game is as simple as you want to make it and as complicated as you want to make it. You go into many things for hours and discuss so many things. All it is that the bowler is coming into bowl and you have to hit the ball. Just keep it as simple as that. The more you complicate it, the more things are going to get complicated. He just told me how to brave, back myself, believe in myself because if I’m not going to believe in myself nobody is going to,” Suri said on the coach’s role in his early days.
He further adds, “I realized that there will be ups and downs, but my enthusiasm or motivation shouldn’t drop. That would hinder not only my progress, but also my mindset. I think I’ve been keep that motivation going, keep that desire growing and getting better.”
While Javed was Suri’s first coach, UAE are now under the watchful eyes of former India allrounder Robin Singh, who took over as the coach not too long ago, replacing Dougie Brown. In his short stint so far, Suri reckons he is confident that Robin is the man to take the team forward. Robin took over after UAE were under the pump as four of their players including their captain Mohammad Naveed were suspended following a match-fixing scandal, but seem to have put that behind them.
Talking about his new coach, Suri says, “We did have a tough period but we put that behind us. Robin Singh is putting in a lot of good things. The board is really supporting the players and backing them. We do realize we have a good team. However, during pivotal periods or crucial situations, we have let our standards drop. He is really trying to work on the fitness, our fielding and even the cricketing skills aspect. The experience that he has, I’m sure the results will come now. Going into tournaments, we will definitely see better results. I can already see the efforts and the structure of the programs put in place is very affective. We trained for a month or two together then we went to Oman. He has a better idea because he has worked with associate countries before. It’s a good sign.”
With franchise cricket giving players from the associate nations a chance to rub shoulders with some of the best in the world, Suri, has played in the Abu Dhabi T10 league and also the Global T20 League in Canada. In Canada, he represented Toronto Nationals under Yuvraj Singh’ leadership – someone he has always admired.
“Yuvraj is such a down to earth, humble, jolly guy. He is like a mentor to me. He came to Dubai as well for T10. So, we sat down again and caught up. Even in Canada just interacting with him…he just told me, ‘Chirag, just go enjoy yourself in the middle. Don’t take any pressure, we don’t want you think about getting any runs.’
“I did well in Canada as well. It was a good feeling to perform around these guys. It gives you the confidence to deliver in big stages. I just want to keep on putting those good performances on right now,” says Suri.
The T10 League in its limited editions so far has certainly been a hit. It is a tournament that has attracted many viewers and also many renowned faces around the world. With UAE cricketers deprived of playing the best on a regular basis, this is the best tournament for them to learn and grow. “The average UAE cricketer does not get too many opportunities to play against the best of the world or test their skills against international cricketers. So, it’s a great opportunity. Now the Yuvrajs, Eoin Morgans and top players of the world are competing in this league. So, I think it is a great platform for the UAE cricketers to put their foot down and do well. Whatever opportunity we get, we want to do well. It’s a great platform and having it in Abu Dhabi, we have a home advantage sort of to say we know the conditions well,” Suri reckons.
Suri is just about beginning to peak at the international level and we could very well see the best of him in the years to come. It will however be up to UAE cricket and their coaches to ensure that his talents do not go the unfulfilled route.