There’s an impression that many India-born cricketers have played Test cricket for New Zealand. There’s Dipak Patel, Jeetan Patel and Tarun Nethula. But, the truth is no player born in India has played a Test for the Black Caps.
All that could be set to change, and the man who could get that distinction is a Ludhiana-born, Anil Kumble-worshipping, 20-year-old leg-spinner who will soon tour the country of his birth. Meet Inderbir Singh Sodhi, or as the world will soon know him — Ish Sodhi.
Dipak Patel, with his hard-to-miss surname is obviously the first to come to mind when you think of Desis playing for New Zealand. The truth is that Patel — who came to prominence as the off-spinner who opened the bowling during New Zealand’s great run at the 1992 World Cup — was born in Kenya, was playing country cricket in England and migrated to New Zealand to further his ambitions of playing Test cricket, with no stopover in India.
Namesake and fellow off-spinner Jeetan Patel’s family is from India alright, but, they had already migrated to the country where the Lord of the Rings movies where shot before his birth.
He was, indeed, born in Wellington and raised in the city’s eastern suburbs. Nethula, unlike the Patels, was born in Kunoor in Andra Pradesh. His family only migrated to New Zealand when he was 12, but, the leg-spinner is yet to play a Test for his adopted homeland.
He has represented the Black Caps in ODIs, and with Daniel Vettori’s legendary career winding down and frequently bogged down by injuries, Nethula could indeed become the first India-born cricketer to represent New Zealand in Tests. That is, if, Sodhi doesn’t beat him to the punch.
In a telephonic interaction with HT before he arrives with New Zealand ‘A’ for their series against India ‘A’ starting in Vizag later this month, Sodhi delved on his roots, his heroes and his burning ambition.
“My family moved to NZ in 1996, I was four at the time. My father is a doctor by profession and currently manages a mental health service and my mother a teacher. It’s fair to say I wasn’t born into a sporting family but my love for sport, especially cricket, grew from battles in the backyard with friends. I have visited Ludhiana several times and still consider it my second home,” said Sodhi.
Through the ranks
The lanky leggie has risen quickly through the ranks and was part of the U-19 team that lost narrowly to India in the semis in last year’s U-19 World Cup in Townsville. Sodhi also showed his prowess with the bat in the quarterfinal against West Indies, coming in at number 8 and helping the team score the 26 runs that were required off the last 15 balls.
At the heart of his success has been the man who paved the way for PIOs in New Zealand, Dipak Patel.
“I was fortunate to work with Dipak Patel from a young age which proved to be very valuable later on in my development. I have been very lucky to have spent time with the likes of Paul Strang, Matt Horne (NZ U-19 coach). Paul Wiseman, former NZ spin bowler has been a huge influence in my development over the past couple of years.”
The 20-year-old added that he is eager for his first major tour in the senior setup, even if it is with the ‘A’ team. He also said that while he could speak both, Punjabi and Hindi, his Kiwi accent would give him away as an outsider.