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By Peter Della Penna (on Twitter)
DreamCricket.com is wrapping up the year in United States Cricket by recognizing USA’s standout performers at the international level. The 2012 New Inning Foundation Cricketer of the Year is Sushil Nadkarni. The 36-year-old was USA’s standout performer during the calendar year, leading USA in all forms of the game with a combined total of 425 runs including three half-centuries.
Image (above) - Sushil Nadkarni in action vs. Kenya at the 2012 ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier. [Courtesy: ICC/Thusith Wijedoru]
Nadkarni’s road to the national team was a long one, moving to the USA in the late 1990s after having represented India U-19 and Maharashtra as an opening batsman. While it only takes four years to qualify as a resident to play for USA, Nadkarni bided his time outside of the national team piling up a mountain of runs in league cricket in Texas.
In late 2005, Nadkarni played for Texas in the interstate competition organized by Major League Cricket. In his team’s first match, Nadkarni scored 171 not out at Brian Piccolo Park in Fort Lauderdale and the next day scored 214 off 130 balls in a pair of 50-over contests on his way to being named tournament MVP. He rounded out the event by scoring 42 in a Twenty20 exhibition match against a slew of former West Indies internationals. By this time, he could no longer be ignored for national team consideration.
The following year he was handed his national team cap and the runs continued to flow off his bat. On debut, he scored 111 in a 106-run win over the Cayman Islands in Canada in August. At a USACA national tournament in 2008, he scored an astounding 223 playing for the Central West against the Central East, an innings in which he struck 22 sixes. In 2008, Nadkarni produced a record score for a USA player, 197 vs Suriname, with 22 fours and nine sixes.
No bowling attack seemed capable of stopping him. It took a ruptured Achilles tendon to bring his batting exploits to a halt. At the time it happened in August of 2009 in Minnesota at a USACA national tournament, there was some concern that the injury could be career-threatening especially with Nadkarni on the wrong side of 30. However, he persevered through the rehabilitation process and before long was back to his devastating best. Less than a year after the injury, he scored the fastest century ever by a USA player, off 54 balls vs. the Cayman Islands in Bermuda.
Nadkarni’s first and middle initials are S.S. They fit him perfectly. The man is built like a steam ship and his bat acts as a cannon firing warning shots across the bows, alerting opponents to the danger they face every moment he is at the crease before leaving battered bowling attacks in his wake. The slightest error results in the ball disappearing over the ropes at midwicket.
He showed his value in different ways in 2012 as he added another distinction to his list of accomplishments by captaining USA at the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier in the UAE. Though the team struggled overall, Nadkarni finished atop the run chart for USA at the March event as he shepherded an inexperienced side through a grueling stretch of nine matches in 11 days.
Six months later, he formed an intimidating partnership at the top of the USA order with Steven Taylor as the pair finished one-two in the overall run tally at ICC World Cricket League Division Four in Malaysia. His influence on the team both with the amount of runs he scored and the leadership he displayed as a senior player and vice-captain on tour ensured that USA stayed on the path to a possible berth in the 2015 ICC World Cup as they qualified for ICC WCL Division Three in April.
In the 13 matches that Nadkarni played in for USA in 2012, he top scored for USA in seven of them. Even though he was the oldest man in the USA squad in Malaysia, he was arguably USA’s fittest. Maintaining that level of commitment in 2013 will surely see him add even more accolades to his historic career in a red, white and blue uniform.
Congratulations to Sushil Nadkarni on being named the 2012 New Inning Foundation Cricketer of the Year. He is the third recipient of the honor following Steven Taylor and Aditya Thyagarajan, who won the award in 2011 and 2010 respectively. In recognition of his achievement, Nadkarni will receive a plaque as well as a $250 DreamCricket.com Pavilion Shop gift certificate sponsored by New Inning Foundation.