Netravalkar living the dream as the toast of the cricket world


Serious business: Netravalkar has been combining two dreams — even after relocating to USA to study at Cornell University.
| Photo Credit: Getty Images

He has worn India’s blues, albeit in an Under-19 World Cup, with K.L. Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Harshal Patel and Jaydev Unadkat as his teammates. He has proudly adorned the Lion’s Crest — the famed Mumbai cricket logo — in all three formats. He has played with Yuvraj Singh, against Virat Kohli and Rahul Dravid and has the likes of Rahul and Joe Root in his illustrious list of dismissals.

He is also a software developer for an IT giant, based in California. Virtually every middle-class Indian over the last three decades at some stage dreams of being either a cricketer or an IT professional.

Saurabh Netravalkar has been combining two dreams, even after relocating to USA to pursue academics at the prestigious Cornell University in 2015.

On Thursday night, Netravalkar emerged the toast of the cricket world, starring in the co-host’s stunning victory against former champion Pakistan to set the T20 World Cup alight.

If his figures of 4-0-18-2 had been instrumental in restricting Pakistan to 159 for seven up front, Netravalkar — the left-arm pacer — came back to defend 18 runs in the Super Over, conceding 13 to complete a dream that he had cherished for a long time.

We shall come to dream in a while but Netravalkar and his colleagues had been eyeing such performance for the last couple of years. “Do not consider us as also-rans. We are seriously targetting making the Super Eights first up and then we’ll take it from there,” Netravalkar had told The Hindu last month, while taking a break from his developer’s role.

While a majority of Indian representation in USA’s team is dominated by a group of professional cricketers who have relocated to the USA to further their cricket career, Netravalkar — being from the slightly older generation — is an exception.

In fact, when he boarded a flight from Mumbai – his hometown – for his master’s nine years ago, he had not even packed his cricketing kit.

With playing international cricket for India continually becoming a distant dream, Netravalkar – an IT engineer – chose to keep cricket behind and prioritise academics.

“I never thought I would be able to play competitive cricket again when I came here for masters but I started working and came to California, I was introduced to the weekend league culture and the cricket bug bit me harder. All those six- or eight-hour car drives at the start of my stint in the USA are worth it now that I am playing the World Cup. I wanted to play for India but nevertheless, I will be playing against India,” he says.

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