Abhai Sawkar speaks with Dubai-born Perth-based UAE all-rounder Darius D’Silva.

The CWC League 2 tri-series in UAE is approaching the end, and it’s been a test for the hosts, who have a young team with several players looking to take full advantage of the opportunities they receive, so that they can successfully create an early impression.

2019 has been quite an eventful year for UAE, having hosted the men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier as well as plenty of ODIs and T20s at home and away. This year might’ve been blighted by controversy, but the emergence of multiple rising stars in the now new-look team has been a motivating factor in itself. One of the recent good finds is batting allrounder Darius Del Piero D’Silva. His father is a mad Juventus fan, thus the middle name.

Despite his team coming up agonisingly short in the T20WC Qualifier, D’Silva has plenty of positives to take, and cherishes the game time he got, as well as the level of competition.

UAE
This catch from Safyaan Sharif completed Scotland’s victory over UAE in the T20WCQ eliminator qualifier (Photo: ICC)

“The experience was a very good one. It was great to be part of a professional sporting team and to interact and play against some amazing cricketers,” D’Silva told Emerging Cricket. “It was also the first time I’ve ever played on TV and it was fun interacting with the crowds and the cameras. It opened my eyes and showed me what it’s really like to be a professional athlete and there’s a lot more to it than just hitting balls and training.”

As much as the experience was rewarding in more ways than one, D’Silva was summoned to play for UAE as a last-minute pick, as one of three players that would supersede three others who were rendered unavailable midway through the event. And yes, it was more than just a pleasant surprise which he marvelled at.

“I wasn’t originally selected to be a part of the team and was disappointed with that, however, a week before the tournament, I got a call from the head coach Dougie Brown and he informed me that I’ve got to fly across to Dubai as soon as possible to start preparing for the tournament. I remember being on the phone and telling my mum and we both just looked at each other like, is this really happening?”

Darius D'Silva
D’Silva made 82 runs during T20WCQ averaging over 27 (Photo: ICC)

While it may have been surreal to get a first gig in a major ICC tournament, the hard work leading up to it has definitely paid off. D’Silva split his time between Dubai and Australia early on, and currently plays most of his cricket in Western Australia. To date, he boasts an impressive CV, from playing plenty of age-level cricket as well as for the second-tier Western Australia state team.

“I have lived in Australia from the age of 2-4 and then moved back to Dubai, then finally moved back to Australia at the age of 11. I’ve represented Western Australia in Under-15s, Under-17s, and Under-19s levels, winning both the Under-15 and Under-19 tournaments. I’ve captained my school’s First XI team and have also represented the Western Australia second XI, the Under-23s. Winning the Under-19 tournament and playing in the second XI have exposed me to the quality of cricketers here in Australia and has motivated me to train harder and perform more consistently at the elite level so that I can develop and ultimately be the best cricketer I can be.”

“To be honest, my favourite athletes all don’t play cricket. I take a lot of physical training techniques from NFL players, boxers, and soccer players.”

Darius D’Silva

Prior to the T20WC Qualifier, D’Silva took part in an away T20I series against the Netherlands, where he made his international debut. UAE won all three games, and D’Silva chipped in with some runs in the middle order. It was a decent beginning, but after that series it was back to putting in the hard yards to gear up for the upcoming season. But then again, there probably wasn’t enough time to switch gears and acclimatise to conditions over in the UAE. Nonetheless, each Qualifier game was a learning opportunity. He’d go on to make 82 runs in the tournament, averaging 27.33. His side would go on to the qualifying playoffs, but the loss to Scotland meant that was curtains.

“Since I wasn’t part of the original squad for the qualifiers I was doing all my training over here in Perth. I had gone to the Netherlands with the UAE and then came back to Perth to do a full pre-season. The season had just started in Perth when I got the call-up and I’d already played two games before leaving. I was fortunate enough to be in some decent form heading into the qualifiers – I made 83 in 55 in both those games. What could’ve been better was obviously being a part of the UAE setup leading up to the qualifiers, since it’s crucial in any team sport to build a sense of unity, team spirit, and trust, which can only be done through training together and spending time as a team.”

As interesting as it seems, D’Silva draws inspiration from some of the best in the business in sports, but they aren’t cricketers. Looking at his choices, there’s a lot of emphasis on mental toughness, athletic agility, aggressive instinct, positive attitude, and the tireless strive to fulfil potential and beyond. His favourites, well, should surprise few!

Christiano Ronaldo is one of Darius D’Silva’s sporting heroes

“To be honest, my favourite athletes all don’t play cricket. I take a lot of physical training techniques from NFL players, boxers, and soccer players. My top 3 favourite athletes would have to be Odell Beckham, Jr., Mike Tyson, and Cristiano Ronaldo – Odell due to the fact that he’s such a gifted athlete, the way he moves, and the way he carries himself off the field with his sense of fashion and interaction with the crowds. Mike Tyson is up there because he was ruthless and his opponents feared him before he even threw a punch. That’s something I’ve tried to bring into my game. When you’ve got the opposition where you want them to be, you bring in a sense of ruthlessness and make sure they know that there’s no way back. Finally, Cristiano Ronaldo is someone I look up to, because of his work ethic. He’s one of the most disciplined athletes in the world and has made significant sacrifices which, in turn, have transformed him into one of the world’s best soccer players.”

Having entered the international arena fairly early in his burgeoning career, D’Silva is thankful for the support he’s received over the course of time, and the next step is to build on the steady initial progress. As a mainstay in WA underage teams, the next ambition is to reach the senior state side and play top-level domestic cricket in Australia. While he’s still improving his T20 game, there’s a chance we may see him in the Big Bash League not too far down the road.

“Currently I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to play international cricket [for UAE] at the age of 21. It’s been my dream since I was 5, and for it to happen so suddenly, I’m very grateful for that. Getting a taste of what it’s like to be a professional athlete has motivated me to work harder than I ever have before as making this my career is my ultimate goal. In the near future I hope to get a contract with Western Australia and continue playing international cricket on a world stage. It would be great to play in the BBL and that’s something that I’m working towards by improving my scoring options and developing my T20 skills.”

UAE defeat PNG
UAE defeated eventual runners up PNG in a T20WCQ warm-up (Photo: ICC)

D’Silva’s discernible potential and advancing ability earned him a spot in the ODI side for the recent home tri-series against USA and Scotland. Batting in the middle order might be his relatively stronger suit, but in the previous game against USA, his bowling stood out for the first time (7-1-20-2). USA might have had a steady start, but the all-rounder’s canny and consistent medium pace variations fetched him two important wickets against the run of play.

With quite a few experienced hands currently not in the scene, it’s a great chance for the youngsters to slowly mould themselves in the setup and impress. With another eight rounds of League 2 games left, this tri-series is the perfect launchpad for him to continue. It has definitely been a difficult outing for the team as a whole, but following this series there isn’t a whole lot of time to regroup and reassess the shortcomings, since the next League 2 event is in January. On a more positive note, the willpower among the youngsters such as D’Silva is the paragon of limitless ambition and self-belief. The first step to overcoming difficult times is to maintain positivity and back the strong areas. Whenever you encounter an obstacle, the focus is determining how to conquer it.

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