Via Indian Express, a report on how – with as many as six cricketers of Indian descent, most of them on temporary H1-B visas that allow U.S. companies to hire overseas employees – the USA cricket team upset Pakistan:

THIS WASN’T Pakistan losing to India B, it was Pakistan losing to India H1-B. That was the popular take on Friday at Dallas where USA shocked one-time world champions Pakistan in a nail-biting Super Over finish in a group game of the World T20. With as many as six cricketers of Indian descent, most of them on temporary H1-B visas that allow companies to hire overseas employees, featuring in the historic win, the joke would be a hit in the immigrant community.

Almost everyone had a role in scripting a historic day for American cricket. The ripples of joy spilled as far as Delhi and Mumbai, Anand in Gujarat and Chikkamagaluru in Karnataka. Their stories are diverse.

The Super Over hero, Saurabh Netravalkar, had packed his bags from Mumbai to San Francisco for higher studies. Player of the Match and batting hero Monank Patel (50 off 38 balls) had left Anand in 2016 for New Jersey to start a restaurant after he realised his cricket career was going nowhere. Three-wicket hero Nosthush Kenjige, born in Alabama but raised in Nilgiris and Bengaluru, returned to the US to work as a biological technician. Milind Kumar, who took a blinding catch in the Super Over, had represented a clutch of domestic sides before quitting his job in ONGC and flying to Houston, where he had been playing league cricket. Nitish Kumar, whose last-ball four tied the game, was born in Ontario, Canada, but shifted to the US during a torrid phase during the pandemic. Left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh, whose action was likened to Bishan Singh Bedi, left India as a shattered man after setbacks and rejection, including an alleged match-fixing scandal although the board eventually cleared him. Jasdeep Singh spent most of his life shuttling between New Jersey and Chandigarh, before settling down in the US.

Their sweat and dreams were rewarded on a sparkling afternoon in Dallas, and past midnight in India. But the Netravalkar household in Malad was wide awake. Saurabh’s father Naresh was all nervous before and during the game. More so, as his wife had flown to the US. “I was in full tension, it was the day when he was about to become hero or zero. I was confident but Pakistan is a good side,” he told The Indian Express.

The left-arm seamer, though, seized the moment, producing a magnificent Super Over with the ease of coding a difficult programme in his Oracle office. Earlier, he had bowled magnificently, conceding 18 runs and nabbing two wickets.

Saurabh had almost quit cricket, but as he wrote on Facebook once: “Even if you leave cricket, it has found a way back into your life.”

When he left home, his father said, he had not even carried his bowling spikes. “He saw a few people playing cricket where he used to stay, which was near his university. He began to play cricket as a timepass. Look at his destiny — USA got a chance to play this World Cup because they are the host nation, and Saurabh got a chance to represent them,” he said.

Every weekday, Saurabh is at the office from 9 am to 9 pm. “His office has all the facilities, so he uses his gym there. He does his nets and every weekend he travels around for different tournaments,” said his father. He credits his son’s clear plans for his success. “He told me papa, if I don’t get enough chances, I will move to the US to do my masters.”

So he did, but another was waiting for him. A cricketing dream he had buried.

His team mate Monank though never forsook the game, because his dying mother’s last wish was to see him as a cricketer. Sensing that cricket would take him nowhere after representing Gujarat in age-group cricket, he flew to New Jersey to start life afresh in 2014. Two years later, he opened a Chinese restaurant but it did not gather adequate business, debts mounted and he sold it.

Another shock came in the form of his mother’s cancer, and she would soon die. But Monank persisted with cricket, for his mother wished so.

As luck would have it, the then USA coach J Arunkumar recognised his talents and polished the sparks of a talent into his country’s batting pillar. “It’s a big day for Team USA and for the USA cricket community, too. Of course, beating Pakistan in the World Cup is going to open many doors for us,” he said after the game.

Guiding them all is Milind, a veteran of 46 first-class games, someone who has played in the IPL. He was a substitute but left his imprint on the game with an acrobatic catch, lunging forward to consume Iftikhar Ahmed in the Super Over.

His father Suman, a retired banker who lives in Delhi’s Karol Bagh, narrated the reason Milind left his country: “He was getting the opportunity to play, the exposure was good, Major League Cricket was also in the pipeline. It was hard for me to say goodbye to him but it was his sheer passion for the game that drove him away from the country of his birth.”

Different from all was Nosthush’s journey. He was born in Alabama, where his father Pradeep, a coffee planter, writer and one of the directors on the Coffee Day board, was completing Master’s in agriculture. When he was just a two-month-old, the family returned to a quaint coffee-town in Karnataka. He developed interest in the game and played league cricket in Bengaluru. Later he left cricket behind to begin his life anew in Virginia.

But Nosthush understood that he couldn’t stub out the habit of playing cricket. So he began playing in local leagues, attended a trial and made good use of the claim to be an American citizen. He then did community service for 800 hours in a year to become eligible to represent the US. Now he is living the dream he never thought he would. And their dream owed to that prominent display on their visa sticker: H1-B.


Leave A Reply