Chirag Suri: The IPL's UAE entrant vows to make his presence felt
The 22-year-old was born in Delhi but represents UAE, and the journey back to India has been an emotional one.
“Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence.” – Lin Yutang
This old adage could not have captured the emotions of a certain Chirag Suri any better. The 22-year-old batsman who was born in Delhi and raised in Dubai returns to the country as an overseas player from the United Arab Emirates. He will play for the Gujarat Lions in this year’s Indian Premier League.
It has to be said: The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
There is a palpable sense of achievement in Chirag's demeanour, and now that the dust has settled and the euphoria has subsided, he sits back and smiles.
"It is such a big deal, it is one of the biggest leagues in the world and now I am going to be a part of the entire journey. It is emotional and to be fair it took a while for us to gather ourselves," the young man tells Sportskeeda.
Family has always been the driving force for Chirag, and even when he is busy collecting all the accolades, he never forgets about the contributions of his parents.
"We watched the auctions together. My father came back just in time from the mill to watch me go under the hammer. And when the final verdict was delivered, the scenes around the house became very emotional. It is a journey we undertook together and this in many ways vindicates all our decisions.”
Cricket is still not a household name in UAE. Despite the fact that the national team has been around for a considerable period of time, parents in the country are sceptical about their wards taking up the sport as a career. Not so Chirag's parents, and this could be due to the fact that his roots were planted here in India.
“My father has been a steady support. Whenever there were apprehensions about me taking up cricket as a career he backed me and never allowed me to doubt my dreams and abilities. This call-up is all because of the unflinching support I received from him and my family,” Chirag adds.
Playing in the IPL is a big boost for any young player, more so if the player comes from an associate nation. Chirag is well aware of the pressures he would face whenever he takes the field.
"My coach and all the players in the UAE squad were thrilled with this call-up, but then they minced no words in letting me know that all my performances would now be scrutinised even more and that no mistakes would go unnoticed. It was all healthy banter but they hit the nail on the head. I have to be more careful now and fine tune my game even more if I have to survive in the fast IPL lanes."
The young man singles out praise for his former coach Aaqib Javed and recognises the fact that his influence on his game has been tremendous.
"Yes, he played a huge part in my growth. Not only did he improve my game, he also made me mentally very strong. Not for once did he doubt my potential and to be frank he had predicted that I would certainly be picked by one of the franchises in the IPL."
Chirag's journey has followed a path similar to that of many budding cricketers. The subject of his father once again enters the conversation as Chirag rummages through the entire expedition.
"I was born in Delhi and my father himself was a very keen cricketer. He introduced me to the game at a very young age. He took to me cricketing academies and my cricketing lessons started when I played school cricket in Delhi. And then we shifted base to UAE, where I was part of the U-19 squad which played against the likes of Sanju Samson and Kagiso Rabada. It has been a long journey and I am happy with whatever I have done so far."
Despite the fact that Dubai boasts of the ICC Cricket Academy and many state-of-the-art grounds, only eight cricketers are professionals – and Chirag is not one of them. He is still pursuing a degree in business management at Heriot-Watt University in Dubai, and juggles studies with cricket.
"I am almost done with my studies and have always been a meritorious student, so there have been no problems in balancing both domains. My mother has been very supportive all the while, and this would not have been possible without her constant backing."
So is cricket changing in UAE, and are the administrators finally recognising the immense potential that the region possesses?
"Yes, it (cricket) is changing compared to what it was like 10 years before. We still have a long way to go. The other associate nations like Afghanistan and Ireland have made a lot of changes in their set-up and this has given us a template to follow suit.
“It is now just how we talk to our boards and make them aware of the developments taking place. We have some amazing grounds and facilities and the coaching staff is top notch; there is no reason why UAE cricket cannot take off and go to a higher level."
The biggest takeaway from the conversation for me was the focus and the bullish mindset which the young man possesses. Despite being showered with plenty of rave reviews and attention, Chirag is well aware that he cannot allow the frenzy to get to him.
"Well, life has certainly changed. For starters, I am getting a lot of phone calls, but I am not complaining one bit. I have always enjoyed attention and success but at the same time, I have to be conscious of my routine going forward. I am an IPL player now and this has added pressure on me to do well.
“I am hitting the gym frequently now and am lucky to have a great trainer who is working on my body. I want to be in great shape for the tournament; it is a long one which is bound to take a toll on your fitness. But then this is the challenge, isn't it?”
As the Delhi boy returns to his roots, he admits that he is an unabashed fan of Virat Kohli and keeps a close tab on everything the Indian captain does.
"He is a role-model, not only for me but for many young cricketers around the globe. His hard work and humble nature set him apart from the crowd. I have followed his career from his U-19 days; his rise has been phenomenal and there is so much there for us to learn from him. This is a life-changing moment for me and I would love to follow the route taken by Kohli."
"IPL-boy" is the tag he carries these days, and he does not crib about it one bit. He will be part of the Gujarat Lions’ team and will have the opportunity to rub shoulders with Suresh Raina, Brendon McCullum and the rest of the superstars.
"It is exciting! There is so much inspiration and quality out there, all willing to be tapped, and I cannot wait to jump in and extract the benefits. This is a dream, but now it is all upon myself to reap the rewards. Cannot afford to take my eyes off now, can't afford to be content."