The path to cricket stardom via the Under 19 World Cup is a well-trodden one.
Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson, Kagiso Rabada and plenty more besides cut their teeth at the tournament first before going on to become household names.
Those players from the UAE who are aspiring to follow their lead have headed to South Africa having packed their bats, pads, gloves – and exercise books.The timing is the tournament is neat for most, coming at the start of a school or university term when exams remain some time off.
That is not the case for Vriitya Aravind. The wicketkeeper batsman is one of three players in the UAE’s U19 side who has also been part of the senior national team over the past two months.The 17-year-old opener has played in six one-day internationals in that time.
It has meant having to miss time at school, though. As such, he is going to have to sit mock A-level exams while at the World Cup, with UAE coach Dom Telo and team manager Andy Russell invigilating.“My teachers have been in touch with the coaches, I think I will have to do some exams when I am in South Africa,” said Aravind, who is studying psychology, business and PE at Kings Al Barsha.
“But I might email my teacher because I want to focus on my cricket.”I don’t want to study during a World Cup, because it is a lifetime experience.”Even if he has got high expectations for his players on the field, coach Telo does not want them to shirk their school work of it.
“Vriitya is one of the players who are in the men’s team, and he has had quite an extended period of time away from school,” Telo said.“We obviously understand that education comes first, and that will always be the case.“They have to get a good education, where possible. But we would also like them to be involved with us.
“We have come to an agreement with Vriitya’s school, that he will be doing his studying and his mock exams during the World Cup, while we are away in South Africa.“We will have to tutor him, and sit in during his exams. That will be a first for Andy [Russell] and myself.
“It also shows you the commitment from these young players, where they are willing to take their books with them, go do their mock exams, and still try to perform at a World Cup.“Obviously, a World Cup is a dream for any player to play in, but they are not forgetting about education, which is extremely important.”
On the senior team’s tour of Oman last week, Aravind said he did his best to maintain his revision schedule, despite the obvious distractions.“We have gone out and had fun as a team, but on the other days I have been doing my course work for PE, and doing some revision for business,” Aravind said.
“Not much. It is hard to do when you are in a team environment. But I have tried to balance it out.”This is the first time UAE have qualified for an U19 World Cup, having been guaranteed a spot in the 2014 edition as hosts.
They have high hopes, having shown promising form in a series of friendlies against Scotland, before taking a win off New Zealand after arriving in South Africa.They start their campaign against Canada in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Aravind, who scored a half century in the win over New Zealand, is hoping to bring to bear some of the lessons he has learnt while playing senior international cricket.“It has been great experience rubbing shoulders with experienced players like Rohan Mustafa, Mohammed Usman, and Ahmed Raza,” he said.
“We have spoken a lot, and they have spoken about my game, and I’ll try and put what they’ve said into practice in South Africa.”