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Acing Academics & Cricket: Know more about USA bowler Saurabh Netravalkar

Updated: Jun 9

T20 World Cup 2024: Who is Saurabh Netravalkar, who helped USA beat Pakistan? All you need to know about Saurabh Netravalkar.

T20 World Cup 2024, USA vs PAK_ Saurabh Netravalkar's 2-18 and superover bowling help USA beat Pakistan _ Walking Wicket (Source_ ©ICC_X)
Saurabh Netravalkar's 2-18 and superover bowling help USA beat Pak (Source: ©ICC/X)

Before June 6, 2024, Saurabh Netravalkar was only the principal member of technical staff in ‘Oracle’, America’s multinational computer technology company in Texas. But in five hours, he became a primary member in the cricketing history of the United States of America (USA). It was the six balls in the ‘super over’ he bowled against Pakistan, which gave birth to new memories for their fans. Especially when the stage was that of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024

The year was 2010. The under-19 India side featured in the quarter-final against Pakistan. Netravalkar was part of the playing XI with KL Rahul and Babar Azam in the opposing team. The figures of 1/16 in five overs weren’t enough to survive the two-wicket heartbreak in Christchurch. 

But 14 years later, the broken dream has crossed the final line. This time, it’s against Babar’s captaincy. From India to America, and with so many hard-working days, Saurabh has finally earned success. He carried USA to victory in their maiden meeting against Pakistan in the ninth edition of the tournament. 

An exciting beginning of Saurabh Netravalkar’s life

The year was 2009. Saurabh Netravalkar, born in Mumbai, dreamt of becoming India’s left-arm quick pacer. He joined the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru on Air India’s Sports Scholarship. With a vital skill of left-arm swing, Netravalkar managed to cartwheel the stumps of Yuvraj Singh. That performance allowed him to earn a place in a reputable BCCI Corporate Trophy. 

Suddenly, he was sharing the dressing room with Yuvraj, Suresh Raina and Robin Uthappa, all of whom were India stars by then. In the opponent camp, he was bowling to the likes of MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli. At the age of 18, the shining star ended the tournament as the joint-highest wicket-taker (8).

These performances were enough for him to collect a ticket for the Indian team of the U-19 World Cup. In New Zealand, during the tournament, he was sharing the field with Jaydev Unadkat, Harshal Patel and others. Featuring in that competition meant missing the entire first-semester exam of his Computer Engineering degree he had enrolled in about six months ago. This was perhaps the first biggest step he took towards his dream. 

The left-arm pacer finished the 2009-10 U-19 World Cup as the joint fifth-highest wicket-taker. His nine wickets in six innings came at an average of 17.22 and an economy of 3.11, with a best of 3/25. Netravalkar was optimistic about getting a call from the senior Mumbai side or perhaps signing an IPL contract. But with the likes of Dhawal Kulkarni, Ajit Agarkar and Zaheer Khan, it was difficult. 

Finally, he made his Ranji debut for Mumbai in 2013 against Karnataka and returned with three wickets. But another tough decision to make was awaiting him. 

From co-founder of ‘CricDeCode’ to USA cricket team

Saurabh had already given up his job as a software testing engineer in Pune to focus on cricket. But in August 2015, he received an offer for admission to Cornell University in New York. In between, he designed a cricket-based application called CricDeCode to help cricketers examine their game. 

The app helped the grass-root cricketers to maintain a structured memoir of their performances. They were also getting diverse data on their strength and weakness assessment. The inspiration behind this development was quite simple. 

‘I didn’t want the hours of engineering studies to go to waste.’ Saurab Netravalkar told Hindustan Times in an interview in 2014. ‘That’s how I thought of developing the mobile app.’ 

After finishing his graduation in May 2016, Netravalkar was offered a job by Oracle in San Franciso. He settled in the US, and started playing weekend cricket to be fit among the ‘Indian community.’

‘I can tell you when I play local matches or club games in the US, I have often logged in for a meeting at the lunch break and people have been very accommodating.’ Netravalkar expressed this in a recent interview with ‘The Economic Times.’ 

During a warm-up game in the summer of 2017, between Southern California Cricket Association XI and the USA XI, he impressed then-coach Pubudu Dassanayake. Life came to a full circle when he picked up 2/45 against Leeward Islands in his List A debut. In the Major League Cricket (MLC) 2023, he was the third-highest wicket-taker (10) at an economy of 7.28. 

The ‘Super(b)-Over’ and a role model in US cricket

At the Grand Prairie Stadium, Netravalkar was pitted against Pakistan at the biggest stage of the T20 World Cup 2024. In the first innings, with his left-arm swing, he returned with brilliant figures of 2/18 in four overs. These included the wickets of veteran Mohammad Rizwan and Iftikhar Ahmed. 

But the real pressure and the weight of expectation came when he stood on his mark to bowl the super-over. The 32-year-old had 18 runs to defend. His first ball was very wide outside off, as Iftikhar missed the slap shot. After conceding a four and wide in the next ball, he got the wicket.

The very next ball was another wide. The fourth and fifth balls gave Pakistan a boundary and a couple of runs, respectively. On the final ball, he had six to defend against Shadab Khan. Under pressure, Saurabh nailed the wide yorker to seal the deal for USA as the entire America cheered for him. 

“It’s yet to sink in. I have never felt the pressure.’ The Mumbai-born reflected. ‘When you love something, it’s never a job for you.’

A win over Canada in their first game of the tournament attracted more people to the game. This historical victory over Pakistan will give them belief and a chance to dream. Such players who don’t go on to play for India will find a way to complete their dream. 

For Saurabh Netravalkar, he has a quick job to do. His office leave ends on June 17. If they go on to beat one of Ireland or India, he may need to extend his office leave by two weeks. Netravalkar has grabbed the headlines; he will now want to etch a remarkable story on the canvas as a cricketer.


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