Saurabh topples Rohit and Kohli: Mumbai's Netravalkar family in 'dilemma' as IND take on USA in T20 World Cup


Naresh Netravalkar and his daughter Nidhi are busy these days. Answering congratulatory phone calls, responding to text messages and direct messages on social media, and attending national media outlets have become part of their daily routine. People all over the country started recognizing them as Saurabh Netravalkar's family, and not just in Mumbai.

Saurabh, the Indian left-arm fast bowler, recently outsmarted Pakistan on the cricket field in the United States jersey. This was the second Super Over of the ongoing T20 World Cup 2024, and he defended 19 runs. He thrived under pressure, helping the Associates cricket team humiliate the 2009 world champions.

While Saurabh was a sensation in the US, his family in Mumbai welcomed guests with treats in the middle of the night. It was a different atmosphere: the start of their new daily routine.

Saurabh's journey in cricket started as a failed experiment. His mother, impressed by an advertisement featuring the legendary Sunil Gavaskar, sent her son to play cricket. The idea was to make him aware of the level at which the game is really played so that he would back down. But the opposite happened.

“Our parents thought he would understand that he would not be selected. But he succeeded. And then it became a habit for my parents to take him from Malad to Churchgate every day to coach him,” Nidhi, Saurabh’s younger sister, told CricketNext in an exclusive chat.

“They did it with a lot of passion, for six to seven years. He would go to Churchgate after school, travel an hour on the train and do all his homework and everything on the train. So, from the beginning, he managed both his studies and his cricket, and that's how his journey began,” she added.

One last chance to play cricket

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Saurabh's cricketing talent earned him places. In 2010, he represented India at the Under-19 World Cup and shared the dressing room with KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Jaydev Unadkat, Harshal Patel and Sandeep Sharma. But his passion for IT also pushed him to pursue engineering at the Sardar Patel Institute of Technology (SPIT) in Mumbai.

Before accepting the life of a coder, he gave cricket a chance and even made his national debut. But after doing his best for two straight years, he broke away from the game and flew west, where he became a software engineer.

“In those two years, he made his Ranji debut and played for Mumbai for a while. But he was in and out of the team and didn't know if there would be a future. But he had a replacement, who interested him a lot. So, he just applied to a few colleges for his master's degree and got into an Ivy League college, Cornell (university),” Nidhi added.

“He didn’t even take his cricket kit when he went to the US for the first time in 2015 as it was the end of his cricketing career. There was no feeling of bitterness.

“He gave 100%, had his ups and downs, then chose a different path. But what is supposed to happen, will definitely happen. It comes back to you,” Nidhi said.

Saurabh didn't choose cricket, but cricket chose him

The left-arm quick may have left his bag at home in Mumbai, but he was destined to return to the sport. He was holding the cricket ball again, just for fun on the weekend, but eventually, the long-lost great match player in him came back to life. The stars continued to align as he moved closer to realizing his dream of playing international cricket; if not for India, it will be for the United States.

“One of his coaches from Bombay had recommended a club there. He asked Saurabh to go there and train on weekends, as a side hobby. And he started doing that,” Nidhi told CricketNext.

“And then that’s how it started again.” People later realized that he was an Indian Under-19 player. They saw the potential in him. He moved from club cricket to college cricket and kept moving forward. Eventually, he joined the American team. When they qualified from Division Four to Division Two, he was the team captain.

“Before moving to the United States, he had no specific plans to go and play cricket there. The only word that describes his journey is destiny. I feel like everything that happened to him happened because it was supposed to happen,” she added.

Saurabh vs Kohli, Rohit

Nidhi and her father never wanted Saurabh to play the famous Super Over against Pakistan, and they don't want anything like that when the United States takes on India on June 11 at Nassau County Stadium in New York. Additionally, the next game put them in a dilemma as to which team to support, but they figured it out.

Let Saurabh do his job with conviction, and India can win the game; It’s their state of mind.

“We support India. We want India to win the World Cup and we are confident they have a good chance. This is also what we hoped for in the ODI World Cup. We were born and raised here and we love Indian cricket.

“We really want India to win not only this match but also the World Cup, but we also want him to perform well.

“So there you have it. It’s a dilemma for us,” she added.

Full-time engineer, part-time cricketer

International cricket engineers have always made the sport interesting. In India, the engineers who played for the country have become legends of the game. But it is different in a country like America, where the gentlemen's game is struggling to find a place. Saurabh also mixes different roles. In fact, he carries his laptop with his bag. With the support of its company management, Oracle Corp provided full support to its superstar, allowing him to play and work from anywhere.

“He was very lucky to have people who always supported him throughout his career. He knows that when he is not playing cricket, he has to give 100 percent. So right now, when he works, he carries his laptop everywhere. And he has the freedom to work anywhere,” Nidhi said.

“Even when he comes to India, he brings his laptop. He works. So after the match at the hotel, he does his job. He's dedicated enough as it is.”

And that’s something Mumbai taught him from the day he grew up. Saurabh's sister said multitasking is familiar to someone like him who used to do his homework in Mumbai locals.

“It’s something like that Mumbaikarness in him, which is always there, that whole culture of hustle in us.

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    first publication: June 12, 2024, 11:32 AM IST

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