Arun Manickavasagam: Meet Chennai-born engineer who is New Zealand Cricket's first official scorer from India- EXCLUSIVE
From harboring dreams of becoming a commentator and playing the game to bagging an official scoring contract by New Zealand cricket, Chennai-born Arun Kumar Manickavasagamquite literally took the road less (rather barely) taken.
India has always been a cricket frenzy nation. Children growing up in this part of the world spend the better part of their daydreaming of one day representing the country and exhaust countless hours in front of the mirror imitating their favourite players. Among these, only a handful get to live their dream, but Chennai-born Arun Kumar Manickavasagam, an aspiring commentator himself, took the road less (rather barely) taken to become the first Indian to bag a match-scoring contract with New Zealand Cricket (NZC).
Arun dons many hats and one only has to look as far as his Facebook profile to discover what they are as it states: "Free-spirited traveler, life-long student, cricket scorer, casual chess player & a true global citizen". The 30-year-old completed his schooling in Chennai up to class 10. He then pursued his undergraduate degree in Aeronautics from Manipal University in Karnataka followed by an internship in IIT Bombay. And finally, in 2014, he moved to New Zealand for his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Canterbury. Little did he know that he'd end up doing more than one job.
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VOLUNTEER AT ICC 2015 CWC
Arun, who idolizes Dhoni, has been an avid fan of the sport since childhood. He didn't get a chance to play leather-ball cricket but never missed out on an opportunity to roll his arm with his friends on local grounds. Hence, apart from studies, cricket was a major factor in pulling him to NZ.
"My interest in cricket grew from watching TV and listening to cricket commentary. A few of the people that fascinated me were Tony Greig, Geoffrey Boycott, and Harsha Bhogle. I started doing things like most kids do; like imitating voices, recording (myself), and standing in front of the mirror, and giving post-match presentations," revealed Arun in an exclusive chat with the Hindustan Times.
"In 2014, other than the Ph.D. scholarship that attracted me to New Zealand, the other factor that made my decision a bit easier was the fact that the 2015 (ICC) World Cup was held in this part of the world. Hence, it was an opportunity for me to go and watch some cricket."
Eventually, Arun applied for the role of a volunteer and he carried his duty as a ball boy during the New Zealand-Sri Lanka game at Hagley Oval in Christchurch, the city he's still based out of.
After settling down, Arun approached a few clubs with hopes of playing cricket. While that didn't work out, one day one of his friends pointed him towards an advertisement seeking numbers.
What were his initial thoughts? "The first thought that came to mind was that I would be required to put up numbers on the board because that’s all I have seen on TV," Arun said while letting out a light chuckle. Nonetheless, he decided to give it a go on a part-time basis and joined BWCUCC (Burnside West Christchurch University Cricket Club) and the reality turned to be a tad different.
"I was provided with an iPad where you record the details with every delivery. It was something to keep me busy on the weekends and socialize. So, that was every Saturday during summers," he added.
'ONE THING LED TO ANOTHER'
From thereon, Arun's scoring graph, pun intended, climbed sharply. His next major stint arrived during the 2018 ICC U19 World Cup. He worked as the media scorer in the tournament and by that time, he had already been working the same role with Opta Sports (a British sports analytics company).
This opportunity came about by luck but Arun made the most of it. " During the U19 local tournaments, one of the contracted scorers from New Zealand cricket was not available for one of the opening games. For every region, we have a regional scoring manager who appoints the scorers to the games. Since I was already scoring for clubs, he asked me if I was available to fill in for the game. So, one thing led to the other and that’s how I progressed to the U19 World Cup," elaborated Arun.
Scoring managers are a thing of the past in NZC. Presently, they have established a scoring panel, just like how umpires have a panel; where they have set up a development and national panel scorers. Arun is now part of the panel, becoming the first Indian to achieve the feat.
Since he was under the umbrella of NZ scorers, he got a golden opportunity to make his Test debut during the recently-concluded New Zealand-Bangladesh Test series. Ross Taylor's farewell game, which the hosts won comprehensively by an innings and 117 runs, was Arun's first match as the official scorer of NZ.
Arun is taking his time to digest the milestone.
"It is a big step going to Test cricket from U19 cricket but because I have been scoring at the club, age group, U19 and with Opta, it wasn’t my first exposure to an international game. Since Opta scorers sit in the same room as the official scorers, my first exposure to international cricket was during the New Zealand-West Indies ODI game in 2017. I also covered a New Zealand-England Test match in 2018. Because of all the experience, it didn’t feel like a big step but in actuality, I am beginning to realize," Arun said with a beaming smile.
HOPING TO BECOME AN INSPIRATION
Arun, who is now working as a full-time researcher in the same university, commented that the joy of scoring is something only the closely-knit community experiences but he hopes he can touch more hearts through his story.
"For a start, most people would be looking to build careers as a player or as an umpire but it's very rare to see someone wanting to become scorers. I would be more happy if my experience would lead to more people taking up cricket scoring because there is so much joy and pleasure in it. I'd be happy if more people take up scoring," he concluded.