Photo Credit: ICC
Led by experienced Ahmed Raza, UAE’s qualification to the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup gave way to a teenage star.
Vriitya Aravind is the youngest member of the squad and the 19-year-old wicketkeeper-batter has been a revelation in the tournament.
Aravind has been in sensational form and underlined his credentials as one of the top batters among the participating emerging nations.
Ahead of the final on Thursday, Aravind had collected 267 runs under his belt from four matches so far.
Aravind’s confidence and poise stands out in the team’s progress. The manner in which he accumulates the runs displays his vast repertoire of strokes. Be it his cuts behind square or the eye-catching drives, he brings it all with ease. Aravind’s power-packed game reflects a mindset of an attacking batter with his pull shots or lofty hits exhibiting his range.
It is Aravind’s adaptability quotient and understanding of the game that has been proved his maturity beyond his age.
Aravind announced his arrival at the Qualifier A with an unbeaten knock of 97 against Ireland to give UAE a winning start. He missed a half-century in the next match against Germany when he was run out for 40. However, it was the innings in the concluding Group B match against Bahrain that will be remain etched in the memory for many years.
Aravind’s unbeaten 84 off 52 balls did go in vain as UAE lost to Bahrain by two runs in a thriller.
His knock nearly turned the tables on Bahrain single-handedly. UAE required 27 for victory in the final over and 12 to secure their place in the semi-finals on better net run-rate.
A blitz from Aravind (4, 4, 2, 6, 6, 2) off Shahid Mahmood almost got his team over the line. The 24-run over steered UAE to the last-four stage but it was the teenager’s batting that belied his age and inexperience.
Drafted into the national team in December 2019, Aravind is among the few youngsters from the U19 side that herald a bright future for the Gulf nation.
Skipper Ahmed Raza has led the squad by example. Taking over the captaincy in 2019 after the country’s cricket was rocked by the corruption scandal, the 33-year-old has been the glue to which the team members have stuck.
Raza’s maiden T20I five-wicket haul in the UAE’s win in the semi-finals against an unbeaten Nepal team just served as icing on the cake.
Overall, UAE team demonstrated their insatiable hunger for success and as Ahmed Raza said, “To reach the T20 World Cup was an obsession for the team.”
Raza believed that UAE’s place in the final of Qualifier A was well-deserved. He said: “We had one complete performance against Nepal.”
On the road to the final, UAE’s bowlers also fired with Karthik Meiyappan picking 3-16 against Ireland in opening Group B match. Kashif Daud took 4-32 against Germany while Junaid Siddique had figures of 3-27 to support Raza’s 5-19 in the semi-final.
Among the batters, opener Muhammad Waseem came up with a big-match knock of 70 in the semi-final following his 50 against Germany. His opening partner Chirag Suri was authoritative during the 81 against Germany. But it has been Aravind’s red-hot form that has been the story of the Qualifier so far, earning him the Player of the Tournament title.
Commenting on his performance after winning the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier A, Ahmed Raza, UAE captain said: “Vriitya [Aravind] is a special kid. I have run out of superlatives for him. Because of him we are here as champions. We lost that game against Bahrain but we could have lost our place in the tournament as well so all thanks to him. He deserves to be the Player of the Tournament.”