BBL 2017/18: Arjun Nair opens up about his last over heroics for Sydney Thunder
The first match of Big Bash League season 7 was a Sydney derby between the Sixers and the Thunder and it was no surprise that the game went down to the wire. The SCG was witness to nail-biting moments as the Sydney Thunder, in pursuit of 150 for victory needed 16 in the final over in spite of skipper, Shane Watson's 46 ball 77.
Left-arm seamer, Daniel Sams, on his debut, sent down four perfect overs, conceding a meagre 14 runs and picking up four wickets. All of this left Sydney Thunder needing 16 from the final over to be delivered by seamer, Sean Abbott.
At the crease were Arjun Nair, the Indian born off-spinning all-rounder and Aiden Blizzard. The latter is the more prominent of the hitters but it was Nair on strike.
Any doubts about nerves were quashed the moment Nair sent Abbott to the fence off successive deliveries to bring the equation down to eight from four balls. "I tried to keep calm, and had a clear plan. I just stuck to that. I was expecting a yorker but was prepared for anything and had a few areas targeted for each ball," Nair revealed in an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda.
The first ball from Abbott was full and outside off which Nair thumped to the right of third-man for a boundary. He was possibly expecting a wide yorker first-up and targeted his area quite well. Abbott chose to go short the second time around, once again keeping it outside off, but the result did not change. Nair took on the short delivery and found the fence, albeit through an edge.
With the scores level with one ball to go, the onus was once again on Nair to take the Sydney Thunder home. A fullish wide ball followed which he drilled to cover point and raced across for a quick single to seal the game. Nair jokingly spoke about how the time spent working on physical strengthening off-season might have helped him ace the all-crucial single.
"I always work on my skills but something I have done a bit extra is work on my physical strength. I hope it helped in that final single [laughs]," Nair added.
Nair, who made his name as a carrom ball delivering mystery spinner in Australia, has his roots in Kerala, India. His parents are both Keralites and settled in the city of Kochi. He was first picked as an 18-year-old in Cricket Australia's National Performance Squad and has since made rapid strides. He is said to have mastered the carrom ball by watching videos of Sunil Narine and Ravichandran Ashwin. “From YouTube, I just picked it up and worked on it in the backyard with my dad,” Nair had said in an interview with foxsports.com.au, “My dad found it hard to play so I worked on it with a real cricket ball and it comes out good now.”
“It took me a while to figure out the exact grip and stuff because I couldn’t really see [it]. It was tough, [and] then it was alright. I picked it up quicker than I thought I would.”
He has as many as six variations up his sleeve as a spinner and is rightly a huge attraction in the T20 format. On Tuesday, he sent down four overs, conceding 29 runs and picking up the crucial scalps of Moises Henriques and Johan Botha.
"It is always good to pick up wickets. I keep working on my skills, polishing it in the off-season and try to come up with new variations," Nair said.
Whatever he tried in the off-season has worked wonders as the youngster has had a great start to the Big Bash League season. Boasting a few big names in the side, Sydney Thunder would be thrilled to have found a new finisher in their mystery off-spinner.
"I do bowl at Watson in the nets... today he was just in brilliant touch," Nair added about Watson's blistering innings that helped the Thunder come close to the target in the derby.
"Yes it is a special feeling to help the team win. I will take a lot of confidence from this and move on to the next game," he disclosed when asked how it felt to win the game for his side in the final over.
The youngster is already creating a ruckus in Australian cricketing circles and this match-winning contribution will surely be a huge boost to his career.