USA Cricket: Saurabh Netravalkar basks in the Bruce Leeroy Golden Glow vs India at the T20 World Cup

2024 Jun 13 by DreamCricket USA

Saurabh Netravalkar has become a folk hero for USA during this T20 World Cup, but the secret to success according to USA's all-time leading wicket-taker and Oracle engineer is all about keeping it simple. 

Photo credit: Peter Della Penna

By Peter Della Penna in Long Island, New York (Twitter/X @PeterDellaPenna)
“Play time’s over, boy.” Those are the words of Sho’Nuff, the Shogun of Harlem, at the start of the climactic final fight sequence in the 1985 cult classic, “The Last Dragon”, a film that is part martial arts action and part absurdist comedy. 
By the time that this martial arts showdown is about to occur in a dingy warehouse, Sho’Nuff has spent the majority of the movie terrorizing the Harlem, New York community in pursuit of Leroy Green, AKA “Bruce Leeroy”, an early 20s guy who splits time working in his parents’ pizza shop while simultaneously moonlighting as a martial arts savant in a local dojo. Sho’Nuff parades around Harlem shouting out, “Who’s the master?” while a group of lackeys behind him shout out, “Sho’Nuff!” in response. But while doing this shtick during a showing of a Bruce Lee film in Harlem, some in the cinema audience shouts out that Leroy is the master and not Sho’Nuff, leading to all sorts of hijinks over the next 90 minutes between a bombastic antagonist and a shy unassuming protagonist who is far more comfortable leading a simple life. 
Over the last week, a parallel version of this has played out in some sort of way across the T20 World Cup venues in Texas and New York. Playing the role of Taimak’s “Leroy Green” has been the unassuming techie slash left-arm pace bowler Saurabh Netravalkar. Seven days ago, he had less than 5,000 followers on his Instagram handle. After his Super Over heroics put the icing on the cake for a famous win against Pakistan, it has mushroomed to more than 150,000. 
The overnight fame has been remarkable to witness for someone who spends his free time quietly strumming a ukulele. Well, whatever free time there is when he’s not working as an engineer for Oracle, playing for USA at the World Cup or spending time with his wife Devi, who is eight months pregnant with their first child. 
One of the main plot points of “The Last Dragon” is that Leroy spends the majority of the movie trying desperately to attain a level of enlightenment to achieve the highest form of martial arts, “The Golden Glow”. His own martial arts teacher, “Master”, instructs him to wander around the city in pursuit of “Sum Dum Goy”. After a number of people he encounters continue to uphold the charade by saying that Leroy is not allowed to meet “Sum Dum Goy”, something reserved for the privileged few, Leroy finally discovers that “Sum Dum Goy” is actually just a robot that prints fortune cookie sayings. 
When he confronts his Master about why he sent Leroy on a wild goose chase in pursuit of the knowledge needed to achieve The Golden Glow, Leroy’s Master hands him a fortune cookie to find the answer. When Leroy cracks it open, there’s nothing printed on it. His Master bursts out laughing upon seeing a confused look on Leroy’s face before explaining that finding the answer is not going to be printed on a piece of paper or anywhere else. The answer has to come from looking within himself. To drive the point home, Leroy’s Master says he has to leave to catch a flight. “You are going on a quest for knowledge?” Leroy asks. His Master responds, “No. I’m going to visit my mother, in Miami.” Achieving master status in any endeavor doesn’t always have to come about from some revolutionary profound, earth-shattering level of skill. Sometimes, there can be deeply profound meaning in just keeping it simple. 
Which takes us to the start of India’s chase against USA on Wednesday afternoon. Out walked King Kohli, the preeminent player of this generation, the proverbial Shogun of Harlem. If Nassau County Stadium PA announcer Joe Hickey used his microphone to ask the 31,219 fans assembled inside the ground, “Who’s the Master?” the majority of the crowd would have almost certainly bellowed out, “KOH-LI!” 
Play time was over. But in came Netravalkar with the new ball, not as Leroy Green but as Bruce Leeroy. Earlier in life, he had given up on cricket in India, perhaps believing that he was never going to make it professionally in a crowded space. But a decade later now wearing a uniform for USA, he was full of belief that he could stand toe to toe with the best of the best. He had The Golden Glow. His answer to the question of “Who’s the Master?”, at least for one moment on one special day in Long Island, was an emphatic, “I AM!” His first delivery to Kohli was angled across the right-hander from over the wicket on a good length, drawing Kohli forward, drawing Kohli’s edge, drawing Kohli’s wicket. One over later, he had India captain Rohit Sharma going through a legside flick too soon to produce a leading edge ballooning to mid-off for a sharp over the shoulder catch by Harmeet Singh. At the end of the day, Netravalkar’s figures of 2 for 18 in four overs showed that his heroics against Pakistan were no fluke, that there’s a reason why he’s USA’s all-time leading wicket-taker in both T20 and 50-over cricket. 
So how has he become USA’s bowling master in a national team career that began in relatively unassuming fashion with 2 for 45 in 10 overs against the Leeward Islands in 2018? It hasn’t been by trying to do a proverbial flying roundhouse spinning heel kick with every ball. Nope. He’s just trying to keep it simple. 
In almost a perfect recreation of one of the aforementioned scenes from “The Last Dragon”, one of the journalists assembled in the 11-person group during the post-match mixed media zone availability asked Netravalkar how long he’d been planning the ball that he bowled to get Kohli out with. 
“That’s my stock ball,” Netravalkar said. “The first ball I bowl, I try to be top of off, as simple as that. I didn’t try to do anything special. I didn’t try to get a wicket or anything. It was a good ball and it seamed nicely.” 
The next question came from a journalist seeking more enlightenment on what it means to be an inspiration to so many people who now see him as somewhat of a folk hero at this T20 World Cup and how he has been able to balance his twin pursuits of excellence at Oracle and with Team USA. Once again, the man who got his Masters degree at Cornell University in upstate New York was somewhere between Gandhi and Tendulkar on the scale of printable Master level quotes. 
“I would just say that if you love doing something, if you plant the seed, you may bloom late,” Netravalkar said. “But if you know that you’re on the right track, keep working for it and things will happen. If not in that field, something else. But through hard work, it won’t go to waste at all.”
“It’s hard to describe in a couple of sentences. It’s been a journey of almost a decade. There’s been some ups and downs. I had to take a practical call at that time when I wasn’t making it big in India due to good competition there. I got a good offer among the top universities so I thought it’s practical for me to pursue my other love and I came here. I’m glad that God gave me another chance to pursue and play cricket again.”
Further evidence pointing to Netravalkar’s master status within the USA Cricket ecosystem is the fact that those eleven journalists ditched India Player of the Match Arshdeep Singh’s press conference to instead spend time 10 minutes with Netravalkar as he waxed philosophical. His session went twice as long as Arshdeep’s and nobody seemed to regret choosing to record him instead of India’s left-arm pace bowling star of the day. 
In spite of all of the newfound fame he’s garnered on USA’s wild T20 World Cup ride, there’s little sign that Netravalkar has changed all that much. His juggling act trying to balance a career at Oracle with a career playing for USA has endeared him to the Everyman. While Netravalkar was fielding on the third man boundary after he had taken the wickets of Kohli and Rohit, a fan sitting in the front row of Section 102 shouted out to him, “Saurabh, I’m working from home too!” which drew a smile and a chuckle from Netravalkar. 
Asked if he’s thinking about getting T20 franchise deals off the back of these World Cup performances, he says he has “no expectations” and is focused on today and continuing to work for Oracle. After the media availability ended, he quietly walked away before reappearing an hour later on the empty Nassau County Stadium outfield to take some family photos with Devi, who came out from their home in the San Francisco Bay Area, and mom, Rama, who came out from India for the tournament. 
Rama was initially worried about whether there was enough time to take a photo with her son. USA coach Stuart Law had called out that everyone the bus was ready to take the USA squad to the airport for their next match in Florida. As he stood in the middle of the outfield with Devi and tried to wave his mom to walk onto the field with them, Rama called out to him from the boundary, “Saurabh, the team bus is leaving for the airport. Hurry, they’re gonna leave without you!” 
Another bystander on the outfield calmly called out back to his mom to invite her on for a more complete family photo to remember the special day in New York and said, “After the week your son has had, there’s no way that bus is leaving for the airport without him.”
The scorecard may say that USA lost to India by seven wickets. But Saurabh Netravalkar has brought The Golden Glow to this tournament for USA and energized the US cricket community into believing that even if it’s just for one day – whether in a win over Pakistan or facing up with the new ball head to head with the world’s most famous Indian batsmen – they too can be The Master.