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Saurabh Netravalkar is destiny's child, says father

Source: PTI
June 07, 2024 18:22 IST
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USA cricket team hero Saurabh Netravalkar celebrates with family members after the win against Pakistan on Thursday

IMAGE: USA cricket team hero Saurabh Netravalkar celebrates with family members after the win against Pakistan on Thursday. Photograph: X

Day job of a software engineer in Oracle, developed his own cricket app, adept at playing Ukulele, a decent singer and yes, also a game-changing pacer for T20 World Cup debutants USA -- if winning in life had a face, it would well be that of Saurabh Netravalkar.

The 32-year-old, who played for India in the 2010 U-19 World Cup, has shared the dressing room with the likes of KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal, even played in the Ranji Trophy for Mumbai, but without doubt his finest moment arrived on Thursday in Dallas, against Pakistan at the T20 World Cup.


Saurabh and his unfancied but immensely talented USA side stunned the cricket fraternity when they took down the mighty and mercurial Pakistan in the Super Over after scores were tied at 159 in regulation play.

Defending 19 runs, Saurabh kept his composure to stop Pakistan at 13 and give his adopted nation a win for the ages.

If Pakistan's perpetual trait of being fallible was at its peak on Thursday, it was USA and Saurabh's composure which helped them beat a giant. Interestingly, Saurabh and Pakistan captain Babar Azam had faced off in the 2010 U-19 World Cup too but it was the latter who walked away as the winner on that day.

Not on Thursday though.

"He is always calm. One of his specialities is that he never comes under any kind of pressure," his father Naresh, who resides in Mumbai with other family members, told PTI in an exclusive interview on Friday.

"He has started doing yoga and that also has made a huge difference as he knows how to wade through any situation with ease," added Naresh when asked to describe his emotions during the Super Over which he watched with Saurabh's mother and wife.

Watching it all unfold on a TV sitting thousands of kilometres away, Naresh noticed that Saurabh didn't look bogged down despite the immense pressure of defending 19 runs in the Super Over.

"Back at home, we were feeling more pressure, but I did not see any of it on his face," Naresh said.

"He had a fixed plan and he was also putting in a lot of thought behind every delivery that he bowled. I can say he was trying to gauge what was going in the batter's mind and he bowled accordingly. We all felt looking at him that he was very calm,” Naresh added.

"His focus is like that only, he will give his 100 per cent in whatever he takes up, be it studying or be it playing cricket. He is working at Oracle as a full-time employee. But he would always carry his laptop and work online if needed on tours," he added.

Spearheaded by pace sensation Saurabh Netravalkar, underdog USA stunned tournament favourites Pakistan in a thrilling encounter.

IMAGE: Spearheaded by pace sensation Saurabh Netravalkar, underdog USA stunned tournament favourites Pakistan in a thrilling encounter. Photograph: X

Indeed, the spotlight will remain on this Indian player for a while but there was a time when a younger Saurabh took a hard but pragmatic call of leaving the "instability" in cricket and shift to Plan B, which was academics.

"He had quit the game to move to the US. When he completed his engineering, he expressed to me that he would take a maximum gap of two years for cricket and if it does not work out, he would move to the US for his MS (studies)," Naresh recalled.

"I thought, if he has worked so hard, he must get sometime and during that period he played one match in the Ranji Trophy but there was no stability -- he would be in and out (of the side)."

So, Saurabh found himself at the prestigious Cornell University for his MS on a scholarship and did not carry anything related to cricket with him. This for a man who had developed a cricket app -- CricDeCode -- in 2014 to help players analyse their game.

"He did not even carry his kit (to the US) where he got admission in a good university, the Cornell University, which is among the top five universities and in the Ivy League. It is only his destiny that he got his chance (to play cricket)," Naresh said.

He represented his university after being spotted by American College Cricket's West Indian President Lloyd Jodah. the talent was hard to miss and he was inducted into the American College Cricket Hall of Fame in 2021.

Saurabh even captained the US team into qualification for Division Two.

"Congrats @USACricket on a historic result! Proud of the team and our very own engineering and cricket star," his company Oracle posted on X on Friday.

A relaxation in residency duration from four to three years also helped Saurabh to play for the USA sooner.

"Look, such has been his luck that the US is hosting the World Cup and as a host country they have qualified for play since there was no chance for them," Naresh said.

"All this is destiny -- that he had to play in a World Cup and for that the tournament had to be held in the US and he also got a chance.

"He will now play against India but as an Indian citizen I want India to win but his performance should be good," Naresh said, talking about the India-USA contest on June 12. 

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