In his own words, Sameer Vithal is a patient young man. For a 17-year-old in the age of fast-paced cricket, this ICC Academy wicketkeeper-batsman can be remarkably patient in his approach to the game.
“I like to take my time when I open the innings, check the conditions, the bowler and then play my shots,” Sameer told Khaleej Times.
But last month when this young cricketer was batting in the ICC Academy nets under the guidance of his coach, Jared Davids, Sameer had no idea who was standing behind his crease, patiently watching his footwork, head position and bat-swing.
It was none other than Brian Lara, the iconic West Indian with that magical backlift.
“I think he came to the ICC Academy for some personal work. Then he saw me play and stood behind my crease in the nets. I had no idea about it. I was too focused on my own game, trying to work on a few technical areas of my batting with my coach,” Sameer said.
But Vijay Vithal, Sameer’s father, had goosebumps seeing a giant of the game standing quietly to catch glimpse of a young talent.
“I was there at the practice session and it was quite unbelievable that he spent a few minutes just to see a young kid in a net session. I don’t know what he saw in my son. But I was struck by his humility. He even spoke to the coach about my son,” said Vijay.
While Vijay was flabbergasted, Davids, Sameer’s coach, felt that little moment reflected Lara’s undying interest in the game.
“Yeah, he watched a few balls and said, ‘the kid’s playing alright’. And we both nodded and smiled. I think that shows he still has that interest about the game, you know, he is probably always looking out to see who is doing what. And obviously, he (Sameer) is a talented kid,” Davids told Khaleej Times.
By the time Sameer came to know from his father how Lara was watching him play, the cricket legend had already left the scene.
“I ran to the lobby with my pads and helmet on, and heaved a sigh of relief when I saw him at the café. He gave me an autograph and we took pictures. He also told me, ‘keep playing well’. That was a really sweet moment,” said Sameer who is aiming to break into the UAE under 19 team.
The youngster, who lives with his family in Abu Dhabi, also attended the unveiling of Lara’s three world record bats (375, 400 not out and 501 not out) few days later in Dubai.
“I was so happy to meet him again in that event. I have only seen him bat on Youtube. Seeing those bats and meeting him again was an unbelievable feeling.”