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ICC World Cup: Vasai village will bat for UAE cricketer

Residents of Darpale village in Vasai will be cheering for their son of soil Swapnil Patil, who is the wicketkeeper for the UAE, which takes on India in the 2015 ICC World Cup on Saturday

While the nation will be supporting an in-form Team India when they take on United Arab Emirates (UAE) in their third World Cup Pool 'B' match at Perth on Saturday, the locals of the tiny Darpale village in the interiors of Vasai will be rooting for a player from the opposite camp.

Cheering him on: Swapnil's parents Prakash and Pratima and his wife Manali, whom he married just two months ago, at their Vasai home. Pic/Nimesh Dave
Cheering him on: Swapnil's parents Prakash and Pratima and his wife Manali, whom he married just two months ago, at their Vasai home. Pic/Nimesh Dave 

Their son of soil, Swapnil Patil, UAE's wicketkeeper-batsman, will be up against his countrymen and former Mumbai teammates. "All this while, everyone in my village has been supporting India, but this time they will be backing Swapnil too.

"He has made this village proud and it will be a dream moment for us. After all, the World Cup is the biggest stage in international cricket," Swapnil's father Prakash told mid-day yesterday.

Swapnil's family has erected a giant screen inside their house for relatives and villagers to enjoy the action. When Swapnil played for UAE in the World T20 last year, the giant screen was set up in a field. "Since the matches are in the morning, we have to keep the screen indoors.

Swapnil Patil
Swapnil Patil 

"The World T20 matches were telecast in the evening and that's why the screen could be kept in the open," said Swapnil's eldest brother, Rohan, who runs a stationery shop in the village.

The villagers want Swapnil to score a century, but want India to win in the end. "It will be a fairytale if he scores a century against India. It will be a memorable moment for all of us here. But India should win the match. Akhir dil hai Hindustani (After all, I am an Indian," said Pritam Chaudhari.

Special prayer
Neighbour Nivedita Patil wants Swapnil, who scored 32 against Zimbabwe in their first World Cup match on Thursday, to bat till the end. "I always pray for his success, but this time, I will pray more since he is playing against a strong Indian team. I hope he bats till the end so that we can stay glued to the TV for the entire match," she said.

UAE wicketkeeper Swapnil Patil celebrates the wicket of Zimbabwe's Sikandar Raza during the World Cup match in Nelson (NZ) on Feb 19. Pic/Getty Images
UAE wicketkeeper Swapnil Patil celebrates the wicket of Zimbabwe's Sikandar Raza during the World Cup match in Nelson (NZ) on Feb 19. Pic/Getty Images 

Swapnil, who will turn 30 on April 15, decided to shift to UAE in 2006 after years of toil on Mumbai's maidans did not result in selection for the Mumbai Ranji Trophy team. "Swapnil has always been crazy about cricket. He played the Dr HD Kanga Cricket League for United Cricketers under Vilas Godbole sir.

Biggest regret
"He was rewarded with under-14 scholarships from the MIG Cricket Club and Dilip Vengsarkar Academy. He played for Mumbai in the U-19 and U-22 age group tournaments and was also in the Ranji Trophy probables in 2004-05, but did not get rewarded with the Mumbai first-class cap which he still regrets," said Patil Sr, who played cricket for Bank of Maharashtra.

In 2006, Swapnil's father received an offer from a Dubai-based organisation — Emirates Contracting Company — asking his son to play for Yogi Group Cricket Club.

"They came to know about Swapnil after seeing videos of his batting and wicketkeeping which the Mumbai Cricket Association had. Shifting to UAE looked like a good prospect. He would get to play his cricket and earn good money as well," said Patil Sr.

Swapnil played club cricket for four years before getting a call-up for UAE. He made his first-class debut in 2010. Four years later he made his one-day international debut against Scotland in Lincoln, New Zealand.

Excited to face MSD & Co
Swapnil, who got married two months ago to Manali, will be eagerly waiting to play against his former Mumbai teammate Ajinkya Rahane on Saturday. "He is very excited to play against India. He is also looking forward to meeting his fellow Mumbai cricketers Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma.

'No hard feelings'
"My son has moved on from the disappointment and has no hard feelings against anyone here. He is very happy with the opportunities in the UAE," concluded his proud father.

Darpale village can't wait for 12 pm on Saturday. Like in the commercial, it's 'mauka, mauka' for them as well.

How Swapnil rose to be UAE's star player...

> In his first big match for UAE, Swapnil top-scored with 30 against Mohd Hafeez-led Pakistan 'A' team in a T20 match in Feb 2010 at Sharjah

> Swapnil missed the half-century by one run (vs Kenya) in only the fifth match after his List A debut in 2010

> Although Namibia won the four-day ICC Intercontinental Shield (first-class match) in Dec 2010, Swapnil impressed with a top-score of 94 for UAE

> His good showing in the Kerala Premier League for Thrissur Dynamites in 2012 helped him prove his T20 credentials

> The first and only time he reached the three-figure mark (108) was in an unofficial match against Uganda at Sharjah in January 2013

> In his ODI debut vs Scotland, Swapnil ran out of partners as he was stranded on 99 in the ICC World Cup Qualifier final in February last year

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