Australian cricket’s next big thing

Meet Arjun Nair, the Canberra-born son of Indian immigrants who has taken the junior cricket ranks of New South Wales by storm

India at Large staff

He made his first grade debut at the age of just 15 and two years later he’s already played for Australia at Under-19 level and made his Sheffield Shield debut for New South Wales (NSW). Sheffield Shield is the domestic first-class cricket competition of Australia. The tournament is contested between teams from the six states of Australia.

Having started out as a batsman who bowls occasional leg-spinners, Nair harbours hopes of becoming the next big spinner from the land of the Kangaroos. Ask him how this change came about, and the 18-year-old blows the mind away with his response.

“I made the grade back home mostly through my batting, but I also bowled leg-spin once in a while. However, I started watching YouTube videos of Sunil Narine and R Ashwin, and their bowling really caught my imagination. That’s when I started practising off-spin in my backyard. I used to bowl a lot to my father and beat him quite often with my deliveries. That’s when the thought of concentrating on off-spin came to mind,” Nair, who has modelled himself on Narine, told The New Indian Express.

His father Jayanand, a former hockey player in India, has been a big influence on him taking up cricket. “I started playing when I was four. I and my dad used to play in our backyard at our Sydney home. He has been vital in my development and in me taking up the sport. He always said that sports was as important as studies, and didn’t let me miss matches even if that meant skipping studies,” Nair said.

For most of the next decade since he tossed his first ball at four, batting was the path Nair followed, and handy scores in his first two Shield matches for the Blues showed there is talent in both disciplines – numerous good judges in NSW think his batting may yet overtake his bowling.

But the breakthrough from junior and club cricket for Hawkesbury in the Sydney grade competition arrived after Nair began slowing down those aforementioned YouTube clips. He practised his variations in a compact backyard net constructed at the family home in the western Sydney suburb of Girraween, over time adding more pace, power and revolutions.

“I was mainly a batsman who bowled part-time leggies,” Nair told ESPNCricInfo. “Then I started watching a bit of YouTube, clips of guys bowling carrom balls and stuff. I’d watch clips of past matches, slow it down, watch replays and pick things up here and there. I started trying that for fun at the backyard with my dad and he couldn’t pick it. At first I couldn’t get many revs on the carrom ball, but over time and getting used to it, I’ve started to get more on it and my accuracy has improved,” he added.

Pic courtesy: Helen Nezdropa/Hawkesbury Gazette


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