Living the Dream: in the Home away from Home-Part I

By Team Kalamwali in Experiences
Updated 11:59 IST Jun 22, 2019

Living in the Dream: In the Home away from Home - Part 1 

- By Gautam Govitrikar

 

 

To a casual observer, he was just another Indian kid flying to US for his Masters, leaving friends and family behind. But there was something else that Sushil Nadkarni was leaving behind:  an unfulfilled but promising cricketing career.

 

Little did he know what fate had in store for him.

 

After finishing his Masters in Austin, he moved to Houston in 2003 and was pleasantly surprised to find a strong cricketing culture.

 

“I did not know how many cricket clubs there are in the US. There were quite a few people who knew about my cricketing past and they approached me to play for their club,” said Sushil in an interview I conducted over Skype. “I never thought it would lead to something as special as leading the USA Cricket Team”

 

Sushil went from strength to strength and soon was selected for the USA team. Amid a period of turmoil, he became the mainstay of their batting and was soon appointed Vice Captain in 2008.

 

Recently, their sterling performance in the America's Cup helped them qualify for the 2012 Twenty-20 World Cup. Sushil was asked to lead a young American team, which he did with relative success. The US Team was ranked 15/16, finished 12th; beating an ODI (One Day International) team like Scotland!

 

“It all started the same way it does for everyone else:-playing tennis ball cricket on the ground of Vidya Bhavan School in Pune,” says Sushil. “I went to sign up for the summer camp conducted there by Nicky Saldhana sir. I was surprised by a comment he made - about how he had seen me play and was hoping I would register. He took me under his wings and taught me the basics of the game. Whatever I know about cricket, it is because of Nicky sir.”

 

“I was trying to get the school authorities to let me use their playground for my camp when I noticed a group of boys play there every day. One of them was a left-handed batsman and stood out as a special talent. What really caught my eye were his sharp reflexes - the way he took his catches was the hallmark of a born cricketer-you cannot teach stuff like that to anyone,” recalled Nicky Saldhana, former Ranji player and coach in Pune when he spoke to the author’s father for this article.

 

Soon Sushil was representing his state of Maharashtra at the Under-16 and 19 levels, putting up strong numbers as he went along. In 1996, he was selected for the India U-19 team to tour Australia, playing against the likes of pace ace Brett Lee. Sushil was soon selected for the senior team but only played one season of first class and List A cricket. Having been unable to hold a regular place in the side, for Sushil, academics soon took precedence and in two years he was at an airport, boarding a flight for the United States.

 

 

Sushil feels the USA team suffered due to lack of quality preparation prior to major tournaments. Additionally, his talented young teammates had challenges adapting between Club and International cricket requirements. “Some of the players would get confused about their designated fielding position when we had a right and left hand batting combination and that was preventing us from finishing our overs in the required time. With the help of two whiteboards, I demonstrated the positions and the results were dramatically instantaneous,’ recalled Sushil.

 

When asked about how he is a different cricketer today than he was back in India, Sushil said in the US he plays more of a mentoring role sharing his experience and advice with the players, while in India there were always coaches and senior players to guide him.

 

Sushil considers himself to be very lucky to have people around him who made this possible. “I was away from school for over 45 days when I toured Australia; but because my friends helped me with notes and assignments, I could do well in the up-coming finals. I am grateful to my employers Environmental Resources Management for being flexible about my work schedule. Many players are not so lucky and hence are unable to play as much for the national team as they would want to,”Sushil told me appreciatively.

 

 P.s.Sushil was the captain of the team when I started working on this piece close to 6 months ago. Since the previous captain is back in the side, he is now the vice-captain again. The next piece will feature another Indian born "kid" who achieved something similar.

 

 

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