Indian-origin cricket prodigies Arjun Nair and Jason Sangha earn their way into Australia's U19 squad

All-rounder Arjun Nair and batsman Jason Sangha
Modified 02 Jan 2019

The Australia U19 players have been denied the chance to participate in the World Cup that is to be held from this month onwards in Bangladesh, and the country’s most talented teenagers are presently in Dubai, preparing to play a four-match tri-series with New Zealand and Pakistan.

The series will serve as warm-up for their opponents, but as for the Australians, this is the tournament they are treating as their ‘mini World Cup’. The Australian team management has decided Bangladesh is a venue unsafe for travelling Australians, but their non-participation in a major world event will be a major blow to many – most of all the players.

In the ranks of the team are two talented lads who show a picture of a recent phenomenon in Australian cricket – Arjun Nair and Jason Sangha, the first two Indian-origin cricketers to play together for an Australian side.

There are many players in the Australian domestic cricket structure who hail from other countries, a sign of the excellence of the Australian cricket system. Pakistani-origin Usman Khawaja and Indian-origin Gurinder Sandhu are two players who have been prospering for a few years.

First Malayalee to play for Australia

The 17-year-old all-rounder Nair made his Sydney first grade debut when he was 15 years old, and is currently the 9th youngest player to ever play in the competition. A fan of Adam Gilchrist, Nair was the undisputed star of the U-17 and U-19 season last year, taking his club Hawkesbury CC to their best finish in two decades and New South Wales to the top of the national championships in both age categories.

Nair is the first Malayalee to play for the Australia U-19 team. Two years before he had been born, his parents emigrated to Australia from Kerala in 1996. His father had been a hockey player in India, but Nair soon discovered his penchant for the sport in which his country of birth were the world champions.

His proud father Jayanand said, “Arjun started playing from the age of three in our backyard and when he was around four years we took him to a coach. Arjun got to play First Grade cricket at the age of 15. He became the youngest player to play Sydney first grade from a subcontinent background, and also the ninth youngest player to play first grade in the 120-year history of Sydney’s first grade competition.”

“My goal is to play for Australia in all three formats of the game,” said the cricketer, who has now got a developing rookie contract with the Sydney Thunder team. Nair is an off break bowler, and is comfortable batting in the top order as well as the middle order.

Nair had made his debut for the Australia U19 team in August last year, demolishing England with a spell of 4/33, leading to comparisons with Shane Warne, the last great spinner Australia have produced. He has not yet had the chance to show his batting prowess.

Batsman with a silken touch

16-year-old Jason Sangha, a No.3 batsman with a silken touch, has been called up to the Australia U19 side for the first time, however. Sangha, endowed with a silken touch and with a technique cricket fans pay to watch, is one of the youngest in the side.

Lack of experience has often seen him give away starts, but Sangha’s batting average of 41.5 across all representative tournaments of 2015 has earned him a call-up already. Greg Chappell has gone on record to say that he is one of the brightest batting talents to have come out of Australia in the recent past.

England has had an older tradition of fielding players who represent the diasporic population in the country, but not many other countries have followed suit. Such has been the thoroughness of the Australian domestic cricket system in the last two decades, however, that deserving youngsters have been consistently getting opportunities, no matter what their background.

Arjun Nair and Jason Sangha are two names we are likely to be hearing a lot more in the coming years.

Published 07 Jan 2016
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