C P Rizwan,on Friday became the first Keralite to score a One-Day International (ODI) century representing any country. The 32-year-old hails from Thalassery in north Kerala which is considered as the birth place of cricket in the state and which has produced several cricketers at the state and junior national level.
The coastal town has also produced several political leaders like Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Union Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan
Growing up at Saidar Pally, a small village near Thalassery, Rizwan's childhood mostly revolved around playing cricket with his friends in the locality. The youngster was gifted with the qualities that make a batsman successful at the top level and had the potential to become a future star.
He went on to represent Kerala in the junior levels and captained the U-25 state team. Although his performance in age-group categories was rewarded with a place in the senior side which included the likes of Sanju Samson and Sachin Baby, he was never given a chance in the playing eleven.
Rizwan scored a match-winning 109 off 136 balls playing for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) against Ireland in the first match of the four-ODI series in Abu Dhabi. UAE, an associate member of the International Cricket Council, beat Test playing Ireland by six wickets.
Rizwan speaks after his historic knock and on what it means to the country he is representing and his hometown of Thalassery.
Q. What are your feelings on becoming the first person from Kerala to hit a century in an ODI?
A. I feel really happy and blessed to know that I am the first from the state to score a hundred in an ODI. Moreover, my hundred has resulted in a victory for the UAE team which makes it even more special.
Q. Ireland is a Test playing side and you were the underdogs, still you beat them...
A. Ireland is a Test playing nation and more than that, they have recently beaten world champions England in an ODI. Our coach and former India international Robin Singh instilled confidence and belief in us that if we play well, we can beat them. We had prepared really well for this series which helped us.
Q. What was the atmosphere in the dressing room like after the win?
A. Everyone was elated. Last time we beat a Test playing nation was Zimbabwe in 2018 and to repeat that again after three years is an achievement. More than that, we had to chase a decent score and this victory is indeed awesome and a great morale booster for the whole team.
Q. You are from Thalassery, tell us about your growing up years as a cricketer and the support you got from your hometown...
A. Thalassery is a cricket crazy town. We all love the sport a lot and are highly passionate about the game there. We have been blessed with lots of great cricketers who shared their experiences with the younger generation.
I started off as a leg-spinner when I got selected for the U-14 team and played my club cricket for Students Cricket Club in Thalassery. I played for the Kerala state team for the first time in the U-17 category and went on to play at all levels from U-17 to U-25 besides getting selected in Kerala Ranji Trophy squad in 2011.
Q. What are your future plans? Do you expect a call from an Indian Premier League team in the coming season?
A. I am taking one step at a time. Right now my focus is to play well for the UAE and win matches for them. If I can do that consistently, anything can happen. Anything is possible in cricket and life.
Q. How did you get into the UAE national team?
A. I have been performing consistently for my team Bukhathiar XI in the UAE domestic circuit and these performances helped me get into the UAE national camp. Performances in the squad matches helped me get into the UAE national side. I also did well for UAE A against touring international sides.
Q. Who all do you owe this success to?
A. I owe this to almighty Allah and am really grateful to my family and friends for their unconditional support. The owner of my company, Khalaf Bhukathiar, has always been a major source of support and strength for me in my cricketing journey.
(From IANS with inputs)