Kanpur: As the inaugural Jio UPT20 tournament unfolds, it is captivating cricket enthusiasts nationwide, serving as a grand stage that showcases the vibrant talent flourishing in Uttar Pradesh. Emerging as standout performers in this sporting extravaganza are Swastik Chikara from the Meerut Mavericks and Sameer Rizvi from the Kanpur Superstars.
Chikara, with his stellar performance, has swiftly climbed to the top of the scoring charts, amassing a mammoth total of 456 runs marked by three magnificent centuries, to propel the Meerut Mavericks to the semifinals. Not far behind is the prodigious Rizvi, who has demonstrated remarkable skill, scoring two centuries for his 455 runs in 10 matches, boasting a remarkable strike rate of 189, lending a glimmer of hope amidst a somewhat lukewarm campaign for Kanpur. This fierce competition between these two remarkable athletes is a testament to the rich vein of talent coursing through the UPT20, offering a glimpse into the bright future of cricket in Uttar Pradesh, a state burgeoning with untapped potential and ready to steer the next wave of India’s cricketing heroes.
As the second-highest scorer in the tournament, Rizvi has been in scintillating form. Early in the campaign he logged a sensational century of 122* in just 55 balls to help his team Kanpur register their first victory of the tournament. He finished his campaign with another 47-ball ton. On his purple patch and the preparation ahead of the tournament, Rizvi said, “I have been practicing very hard for the tournament, once I knew I would be batting in the top order, I began to practice specifically for that and tried to train for various match situations in order to be prepared.”
Halfway through the competition, Sameer Rizvi was tasked with the onus of leading his team, on the responsibility and the challenges it accompanies, Rizvi opined, “I was very happy to be given the privilege of leading the team. I have captained a lot in the past, so it is something that I am familiar with. Our squad also has so many senior players such as Akshdeep Nath and Ankit Rajpoot who have been very helpful.” He further added, that the morale in the team has been good throughout the tournament, despite the lack of points, “ I think we have had a very positive atmosphere in the team, especially since a lot of our losses have been very close, this shows you the calibre of the team and I think those results could have easily gone in our favour on another day.”
Jio UPT20 has proven to be worth its weight in gold with regards to unearthing Uttar Pradesh’s reservoir of talent. The right handed batsman who leads the charts with the most sixes and highest strike rate in the tournament, expressed his admiration for the cricketing spectacle, “This tournament is such an immense opportunity for young players, not only do they get to play with the finest players from the state and India such as Rinku Singh, Nitish Rana and Bhuvneshwar Kumar but also for the match to be under lights, streamed all across India, gives them a unique opportunity to make themselves known.”
Echoing his peer’s sentiment, Swastik Chikara added, “The standard of the tournament is very high, the facilities we are provided are of a very high quality and it is great exposure for us younger players. Especially working closely with more experienced players allows us to develop our game, understand what we are lacking, and areas we can improve.”
With Uttar Pradesh being the largest state of India, Rizvi opined that the competition would serve the state well, “We have so many districts here and so many talented players, as somebody from within the circuit, I was not aware of the skill some of these players possess, I didn't even know their names. For example, Swastik Chikara who has scored three consecutive centuries, I have played with him in the past but had no idea that he has what he has shown during the tournament “
The UPT20 tournament has undoubtedly become a fertile ground where IPL franchise scouts can keenly identify prospects, Sameer Rizvi, however, said, “I try not to think about these things. When I am batting, that is all I think about. With regards to my prospects, I haven’t thought too far ahead, I just want to put up good performances.”
The semifinals are scheduled for the 15th of September, the first encounter of the day will feature Noida Super Kings vs Lucknow Falcons, while the second semifinal of the day will Meerut Mavericks take on Lucknow Falcons