Stepping up the pace

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Despite his impressive record – being the first cricketer of Indian descent to represent Australia in a one-day international – fast-bowler GurinderSandhu knows he’s only just begun his run towards the baggy green

GurinderSandhu cemented his name in the history books as the first cricketer of Indian descent to represent Australia when he debuted in a one-day international, playing against India in January.

It’s a game changing achievement, but one the hulking paceman hasn’t spent much time thinking about.

Sandhu told the Indian Sun he never noticed the lack of Indian origin players at the top when he started playing cricket as a child growing up in Western Sydney.

“That never crossed my mind actually,” the 6-foot 5-inch 21-year-old said. “I was just another kid playing cricket… dreaming about what I guess all kids do playing cricket in Australia – getting that baggy green.”

Sandhu was introduced to cricket at an early age by his father Iqbal, who moved to Australia from Punjab in the 1980s. By the time he was five he was swinging the bat in his first club game.

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“I started playing cricket in the backyard as soon as I could walk,” Sandhu said. After school and on weekends, he honed his technique playing with his younger brother Harmon – who’s now following in his footsteps as an all rounder in the under-19s.

Sandhu stunned cricket watchers in his 2012 rookie season with Sydney Thunder, walking away with the Steve Waugh Medal as NSW’s best cricketer. Sport journalists soon dubbed him a “death bowler”.

He had a promising record, with 12 first class games for NSW under his belt, when he was called up to Australia’s ODI squad in January for the Carlton Mid Tri Series against England and India.

“That was unbelievable – the best moment of my life so far I reckon,” Sandhu said of his debut game against India at the Melbourne’s iconic MCG on 18 January.

Sandhu said he “wasn’t too nervous” walking out onto the pitch. He was surprised to see a fair number of fans filling the stadium, despite the rainy weather – and many were Indian, although they hadn’t come to support him.

“Most of them were supporting India, the Indians from here,” he laughed.

His parents, uncle, a nephew, and niece made the long drive down from Sydney and were watching with baited breath in the stands, while relatives back in Punjab were glued to their TV screens. They all saw when Sandhu snared the wicket of AjinkyaRahane.

He upped the ante in his second ODI against England in Hobart, taking out Ian Bell and Eoin Morgan.

If you’re wondering why we haven’t seen too much of Sandhu at the national level, many say it’s because he’s somewhat restricted at the Blues. The club has an abundance of fast-bowling talent, including current and former Test players Josh Hazelwood, Mitchell Starc, Doug Bollinger and Trent Copeland, as well as Sean Abbott and medium pace all-rounder Moises Henrique.

National Selection panel member Mark Waugh told media this year he would like to see Sandhu getting more chances to step up.

“The problem is at the moment that he hasn’t been playing Shield cricket, which is a shame,” Waugh told cricket.com. “He really should be playing first-class cricket – I think he’s good enough to be playing four-day cricket, five-day cricket as well.”

Sandhu himself is eager to move up the ranks, with the baggy green still his ultimate goal.And when that day comes, he can surely expect to see some Indian fans in the stands barracking for him.

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