This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
A brief biography/ As in 2018
Left-arm seamer Saurabh Netravalkar was India’s highest wickettaker in the U-19 World Cup in 2010. Among his scalps was Joe Root, now England’s Test captain. Three years later in his debut Ranji Trophy game for Mumbai against Karnataka, he took three wickets. It turned out to be his lone first-class match before he left for the US in 2015 to work as a software engineer. The 27-year-old became the captain of the US national cricket team. Netravalkar spoke to Avijit Ghosh about how the willow game is flourishing in baseball country
Tell us about your journey from a young Mumbai cricketer to a software engineer in San Francisco and the captain of the US cricket team.
When I played the U-19 World Cup in New Zealand, I was also an engineering student in computer science at Sardar Patel Institute of Technology in Mumbai. I was always good at academics. After graduating in 2013, I got an offer as a software engineer in Pune but I let it go because that year I was picked as a Ranji Trophy probable. I made my debut that year against Karnataka but couldn’t establish myself. I devoted two years fulltime to cricket but felt I wasn’t making it to the next level so I sat for the GRE and TOEFL exams. I got admission in Cornell University for a master’s in computer science, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It was a difficult decision but I took the big step.
How did you discover cricket in the US?
When I came here in 2015, I had no expectation of playing cricket. In the college, I saw a few people playing the game and just joined them. I heard of an organisation called American College Cricket. I met its founder Lloyd Jodah who used to organise regional and national tournaments for universities. That’s how I started playing cricket again. After I graduated I got a job as a software engineer at Oracle in San Francisco, where I live now. Here, I got in touch with a few good clubs. I play for Marin Cricket Club. Timil Patel, a former Gujarat all-rounder and US vice-captain, also introduced me to his club in Los Angeles, Vijeta CC. LA has proper pitches. On weekends, there are prize money tour naments where big players come and I get good exposure.
How do you manage to find time for cricket with a 9-to-5 job?
There is an indoor facility (nets), about an hour’s drive from office. I go there twice or thrice a week from 7 to 9 at night. The other two days I hit the gym. On the weekend, I play club matches. Last year, a fellow player and I used to take a six-hour drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles every Friday to play a 50-over game on Saturday. Then we would drive back in the night and play a 50-over game in San Francisco on Sunday. It was back to work on Monday. I put in a lot of effort which was noticed by selectors and I was brought into the national team in January. Oracle has been kind enough to support me.
Cricket seems to be growing fast in the US. As per ICC statistics, the game is played in 48 states with over 400 leagues, 6,000 teams and more than 200,000 participants. Fans are estimated to be anywhere between 22 million and 36 million. Who plays cricket there?
As of now the national players are only from Test-playing nations — the subcontinent guys and the Caribbean players. Now the second-generation kids, around 14-15 years old, are also playing the game. They are extremely talented. I have mentored a few kids as well. Gradually, the locals are also showing interest. Cricket USA has started a rookie league where they pick up kids from schools. They are trying to (expand the base). They are also gradually building infrastructure.
Florida and Houston have stadiums. Now they have built a very good turf facility in North Carolina where we played our ICC World T20 qualifiers.
Former Ranji players such as Maharashtra’s Sushil Nadkarni and Hyderabad’s Ibrahim Khaleel have also captained the US national team. How many Indians and Pakistanis are there in the national team?
We have a mix of players mostly from the West Indies, India and Pakistan. We also had a guy in the T20 team, David Wakefield, who was from New Zealand. Our coach, Pubudu Dassanyake, has kept wickets for Sri Lanka in both Tests and ODIs.
How does it feel to captain Team USA?
It is an honour to be part of the national team. We went to West Indies this year to play in their first-class circuit to which they have added the US and Canada as foreign teams. I performed well and was picked to play Caribbean Premier League for Guyana Amazon Warriors. I didn’t get a game though. We are travelling next week to Oman where we will be playing World Cricket League Division III. It will be a qualifier for the ODI World Cup 2023.
Now, second-gen kids are also playing the game. I have mentored a few as well. Even American kids are showing interest