The Special Indian Fragrance Found On The American Soil

Saurabh Netrvalkar will never forget the day when he clean-bowled Yuvraj Singh to announce his arrival on a balmy day in Bengaluru in 2009. There has been no looking back for this left-handed 32-year-old, as his exploits with the ball for Team US in the ongoing T20 World Cup have made him an overnight sensation.

Saurabh, who was a star performer in the India Under-19 World Cup campaign in 2010, decided to study at the University of California. After that, one thing led to another, and Saurabh became a US citizen and even landed himself an enviable job at Oracle. But he could not stay away from his first love, cricket, and his insatiable thirst and drive for cricket saw him start afresh at the ripe age of 29 in order to fuel his dream of playing for the US team.

Saurabh’s stock delivery leaves the batsman surprised. He has worked hard on building a surprise delivery. This was the one that straightened dead up. Such was his tenacity in trying to perfect this delivery that he would often end up working doubly hard on weekends.

“Initially, I was uncertain about my ability to play cricket at the highest level, having not played for nearly a decade. Frankly, I didn’t set any goals for myself. All I wanted was that I get a chance to play for the US when the T20 World Cup is being staged here,” said Saurabh.

His hard work and conviction didn’t go in vain. “I had to begin the process virtually from scratch.” Something as basic as my run-up, I had to tweak as I had not played competitive cricket for more than six years. There were also some times when I used to doubt myself, as it was a very uphill task to get trying to get my bearings back,” said Saurabh.

Neverthless, he was drafted to play for the Washington Freedom franchise in the inaugural edition of the Major League Cricket (MLC), which is the IPL of US cricket, in 2023. It was this tournament in which he showcased his powers by becoming the third-highest wicket taker with a dream spell of 6 for 9 against the San Francisco Unicorns.

This performance earned Saurabh a permanent slot in the US team. With the T20 World Cup scheduled to be held in the US and West Indies less than a year away, the US cricket body realised the importance of having Saurabh as an integral part of the team.

There is an adage that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. In Sauabh’s case, it was certainly this case, as he came up with a string of impressive shows that enabled Team USA to make it to the Super Eight Stage of the World Cup. After knocking out mighty Pakistan in which Saurabh claimed two wickets. In fact, he bowled the historic Super Over, which won the tie for the US against the tough Pakistan team.

But it was against the match against India that Saurabh seemed to have reserved his best. He claimed the priceless scalps of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, the world’s leading batsmen, for virtually nothing. He then had the agony of seeing a simple catch of Suryakumar Yadav dropped of this bowling—a reprieve which ultimately cost US the match. Surya went on to score a half century as India won by seven wickets.

Interestingly, when one looks back, Saurabh could have very swell played for Team India  but for the fact that his contemporaries were Zaheer Khan, Ajit Agarkar –some of the leading lights of Indian fast bowling. Such was level of competition that Saurabh could not even find a place in the Mumbai Ranji Trophy team.

It was this factor that led him to lose interest in cricket and eventually leave for greener pastures to a country like US, where his computer science degree earned him a plum job at Oracle, one of the world leading software companies. But then one must give all credit for the doggedness of Saurabh to inspire himself and pursue another innings at his career. He has every reason to be proud of his achievements.

Saji Chacko

Chacko Saji

With nearly two decades of experience in sports journalism, Saji Chacko is one of the few English media journalists who has had a chequered career across the three main media platforms i.e. print, television and digital. He has done a lot of human interest sports stories and is currently working on the biography of a famous sportsperson.

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