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By Peter Della Penna (on Twitter)
As part of DreamCricket.com’s continued commitment to the coverage of cricket around the United States, a new podcast series featuring interviews with key figures in the USA cricket community is now available on DreamCricket as well as through free download on iTunes. DreamCricket.com’s US Cricket Podcast will have players, coaches, administrators and many others who are all part of the fabric of the US cricket landscape.
The debut episode features one of the great players of the modern era in US Cricket and someone who has rewritten the record books in domestic cricket and for the national team in ICC events. Sushil Nadkarni, the 2012 New Inning Foundation USA Batsman of the Year and Cricketer of the Year, was an ideal choice to be the first guest on the podcast series.
Image (right) - Sushil Nadkarni cuts through the off side vs. Malaysia at 2012 ICC WCL Division Four. [Courtesy: Peter Della Penna/DreamCricket.com]
In the first part of a two-part interview, Nadkarni talks about growing up as one of India’s top junior players, going on an India U-19 tour to Australia before making his Ranji Trophy debut for Maharashtra. Nadkarni then moved to the USA to continue his university studies before settling in Texas where he emerged as a contender for the USA national team. He made his USA debut in 2006 and has been an indispensable fixture in the squad since then, averaging 55.77 in 50-over matches, collecting countless Man of the Match awards and setting numerous records along the way. In 2009 though, he suffered a devastating injury that nearly ended his career.
The first episode of DreamCricket.com’s US Cricket Podcast with guest Sushil Nadkarni can be accessed by clicking here. It is also available for free download on iTunes. The following is a selection of quotes from the episode.
Peter Della Penna: You played against Australia U-19 at the age of 18 in 1995 and part of that Australia U-19 team was Brett Lee. So you were opening the batting for India U-19 against Brett Lee. Was he pretty scary at that age? What was it like going up against somebody bowling 90 mph as an 18-year-old?
Sushil Nadkarni: Yeah I wouldn’t say scary is the word. Well what had happened was Mr. Sandeep Patil, who happens to be the chairman of Indian selectors, was the manager of our Indian U-19 team and even before we left for Australia, we were already practicing on greentops in India because we knew Brett Lee was going to be in the opposition and he had already warned us about the pace that he can generate. So Brett was kind of a known quantity within the junior level international cricket at that time. Even after all the preparation, when I first faced him I still remember that over. I think I got beaten on the first four balls because my bat was just not coming through. I’d never faced someone with that kind of pace before but eventually I kind of adapted my technique a little bit and started moving much quicker as soon as the ball was bowled and then started handling him much better as soon as the tour progressed. But yeah, you’re right. For someone at the age of 18 to be facing some balls at 90 mph, that was a great experience but it was very much a learning experience.
PDP: Were you even aware that cricket is played to the extent that it is in the US? Cricket obviously has a deep history in the US but many people who are overseas aren’t necessarily aware of how widely the game is played at the amateur level in terms of local leagues and state leagues all across the US. Were you aware before you moved, or even after you moved?
SN: It’s a very interesting aspect of my life actually. Before I left for the US, I had certain contracts with companies for my gear and I actually gave away all my cricket equipment to different people before I left because I had no idea that there was cricket in the US. Even after coming here to the US, I was focused on graduating with my Masters but even then I didn’t know there was cricket in the US. So from 1999 all the way to 2003, so we’re talking almost four years. I used to play cricket in local leagues here and there but I still did not know that US had a cricket team. The realization actually came to me sometime in 2003 when through my job through my company actually I decided to move to Houston. While I was moving to Houston, I suddenly started getting phone calls from numerous people who had heard that I was moving to Houston to come and play for their clubs. That’s when after talking to a few people I realized that cricket is not only in Houston but it’s being played all over the US, that the US actually has a team and maybe there is an opportunity for me to work hard and play for the US.
PDP: You made your US debut in 2006 against Cayman Islands and you scored a century on debut in a win for the US. What was it like representing the US for the first time? You mentioned you came here in 1999. You didn’t really get serious until 2003 mainly because you weren’t aware of the possibilities that were there and then you went basically another four years from 2003 until 2006 before you were able to get a chance to play for the US. What was it like going through that period just trying to keep scoring runs and be patient enough until you were able to get your chance?
SN: Yeah it was very challenging as well as a little frustrating at that time because I had scored tons and tons of runs in the local formats at all levels from the league cricket to the national level tournaments. I was still not getting selected for the US team so I would say I was giving it my best shot. I was scoring double hundreds in 40-over games and scoring four to five hundreds on the trot. So I was in top form. I was trying to keep myself fit but from 2004 to 2006 I wasn’t getting selected and it was starting to get a little frustrating but by my good luck I got that opportunity in 2006 when I represented the USA in Canada. I still remember my first innings there. I must have counted down all my hundred runs from the first run to the hundredth run because I was that motivated to make sure I scored in that game and made my mark in the US team. So I was happy to get that opportunity but there was a lot of hard work that went into getting that opportunity and ever since then I’ve never really taken my place for granted in the team at all. I always try to work as hard as I can and try to score runs in every game that I play for the US.
PDP: In 2009 at a USACA national tournament, the Western Conference tournament in Minnesota, I believe it was on the second day of the tournament, you ruptured your Achilles tendon. What happened?
SN: What actually happened was I tore the Achilles tendon on my right foot and I didn’t even realize that I had a very serious injury. What really happened was I was batting and I hit a cut shot to point and I tried to take off for the run, but I think the matting which we were playing on at that time was loosely kind of put into the ground and I have a feeling my foot got stuck in the matting while my body weight was trying to sprint for a run. I felt like a pop in my right foot. It’s like somebody hit my foot from behind and at that very time I did not really realize what had happened. I thought it was more like I twisted my ankle or something. I tried to bat again and a couple balls later I realized that I couldn’t even stand properly so that’s when I realized there was something seriously wrong with my foot.
A week later when I visited the doctor, he did some quick tests on me and quickly said that I have a ruptured Achilles tendon and that I need to do a surgery ASAP and that I would pretty much be out of action for six months. That’s when the actual realization hit me that this might be the end of my cricketing career at that time and that it’s gonna be a long road to recovery after that.