It's been quite a remarkable cricketing journey for Vriitya Aravind, the Chennai-born UAE wicketkeeper-batsman.
Vriitya, who moved to the UAE as a six year-old with his father, an electrical engineer at Dewa - Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, is now defending the colours of Chennai Braves in the ongoing Abu Dhabi T10.
"It's a great feeling to play for the team I was born in. Playing for Chennai Braves is a dream come true because I get to represent my hometown of Chennai," he says.
Cricket was not the first love of this rising star, who has already played 100 international matches for the UAE.
He was drawn to tennis at school in Chennai and it wasn't until he moved to the UAE that he began playing cricket.
As a child, Vriitya would often visit Chennai to spend time with his family. Roaming around Marina Beach, and going out for family lunch and dinner remain some of his favourite memories from home.
But India's 2011 World Cup victory was a life-changing moment for Vriitya.
"In 2011, when India won the World Cup, I was there for summer vacations. After India won, I went out on the streets to celebrate with the people. That moment instilled cricket in me. My dad was always a cricket fan but I think it was the first time I watched cricket and I decided to pursue the sport," he says.
Vriitya enrolled himself in a cricket club in UAE to pursue his dream. In his Under-11s club, there was a shortage of a wicketkeeper. His team was impressed with his fielding and asked him to don the gloves. Thus began the journey of the accidental wicketkeeper. "My team said put on the gloves and start keeping and I have been doing that ever since," he says.
Since making his debut for UAE in a T20 match against the USA at Sharjah on December 9, 2019, Vriitya has played 55 ODIs and 45 T20Is for UAE. In his short career, the wicketkeeper-batter has already stacked 2 ODI centuries and 5 T20I fifties.
The 21-year-old player believes that with Abu Dhabi T10 League and other prominent cricket leagues giving opportunities to UAE cricketers, the region has been developing in the sport over the past few years.
"Here in Abu Dhabi T10, we are getting a chance to rub shoulders with the best of the players in the world. It gives us great confidence when we compete with them. As we have seen, UAE has been performing well in the past 6-7 months. We defeated New Zealand as well. These tournaments give us good exposure and we are now ready to perform against big teams on international platforms," he says.
Apart from cricket, Vriitya is also pursuing his studies in Psychology and Criminology at Loughborough University in England, while also playing cricket in the UK for a club in Birmingham.
"It's winter in England right now, which is why I can come here to play cricket in Abu Dhabi. Or else I would have to be there and appear for my examinations," he laughs.
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