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T20 World Cup: Papua New Guinea captain Assad Vala opens up on Indian inspirations growing up


DUBAI: Gearing up to lead Papua New Guinea in its maiden T20 World Cup appearance, opener Assad Vala says he has grown up idolising a number of star Indian cricketers, including the iconic Sachin Tendulkar whose on-field temperament is something that he aspires to have.

Vala had a huge role in Papua New Guinea making the main tournament, which starts on October 17 in the UAE and Oman.

He was the leading run-scorer for his team in the qualifiers with 197 runs in eight matches. "...when I was growing up, as we all know (Sachin) Tendulkar was (the) only cricketer everyone in the world knew. Tendulkar (and) probably Brian Lara as well. I just wanted to watch them bat and I see myself as a batsman," 34-year-old Vala said in an online interaction facilitated by the ICC.

So, what qualities of the right-handed Mumbaikar would Assad like to imbibe? "I think, his temperament," he responded. Vala cited Tendulkar's patient double hundred in the Sydney Test in 2003-04 series, when the batting great remained unbeaten on 241 after failing in the first three Tests.

"There was a series in Australia, where he got nicked off four or five-times before he scored the double century. He was mentally tough and the way he planned his double century where he played straight and on-side is something I have never seen done before, just to score all his runs on the leg-side and straight-down. His cover-drive, a shot he loved, that is something I got inspired by (and) I have been looking at it closer, and it was a really inspiring innings, something I could learn from," he added.

The left-handed batsman and an off-break bowler, who has played 35 ODIs and 28 T20s, also admires the likes of swashbuckling all-rounder Yuvraj Singh and former India captain and current BCCI President Sourav Ganguly.

"I had Yuvraj Singh (also as someone whom I looked up to), because I am left-hander, I loved watching Yuvraj Singh, a stylish left-hander, Sourav Ganguly. And apart from the Indian team, Lara and (Kumara) Sangakkara and Matthew Hayden, I just wanted to watch them bat...," he added.

In fact, hitting six sixes in an over, just like Yuvraj did against England's Stuart Broad in the inaugural T20 World Cup in South, is an aspiration for Vala but his priority is contributing to the team's cause. "If I do bat, there are good bowlers bowling around, so if the times are right, I'll do it. But hopefully I can score some runs, and not worried about six sixes, doesn't matter how I get the runs. But if I can score some runs and contribute to the team win, then it is more important (than) scoring six sixes," he added.

Papua New Guinea will be taking on hosts Oman at the Oman Cricket Academy Ground, Al Amerat on the first day of the T20 World Cup.