Whether it was playing cricket with their friends back in India or learning the game from their fathers, these lads have had a passion for the gentleman’s game from a young age. Now three Indian cricketers are among a handful of talented young players to be selected for the 2020 Basil Sellers Scholarship.
Hunar Verma, Yuvraj Sharma, and Nivethan Radhakrishnan are among eleven young cricketers in the state to receive the prestigious scholarship. All three have represented the state at various underage national championships.
“It’s really gratifying to receive this scholarship because it’s a symbol of all the hard work that’s been put in. It feels great to work closely with Cricket Australia and, of course, Basil Sellers,” Hunar told Indian Link.
Born in Ludhiana and living in Australia since he was five years old, the right arm fast bowler from the Blacktown Club credits his parents for supporting his ambitions. Making good strides in the game, and now receiving the scholarship, he’s got nothing short of Baggy Green hopes.
In fact, in the past 15 years, 18 recipients of the Basil Sellers Scholarship have actually gone on to represent Australia.
“I’ve definitely got ambitions to join the national team one day and go as far as I possibly can with the game. To be honest, I can’t really pinpoint why there hasn’t been much Indian representation on the national level so far – but I’m trying to change that!”
Hunar is also hopeful to play for the Indian Premier League (IPL) someday.
“To be an Indian here in Australia, I think the league would really be the best of both worlds,” he chuckled.
Like all the recipients of the scholarship this year, he will receive support with expenses like education and travel, and a two-year Team Kookaburra equipment sponsorship.
For Nivethan Radhakrishnan, a young talent from Hawkesbury Club, receiving the scholarship came as a pleasant albeit affirming surprise.
“I had a good season, but I never thought I’d get the scholarship until I was recently contacted about it. It must’ve been the result of my performance on the field, my behaviour, attitude, and leadership skills on and off the field,” he said.
With a father who once captained his state cricket team back in India, Nivethan believes he was born a cricketer. He counts his Under-14 years as some of his proudest moments – breaking records, winning Player of the Year, and joining the NSW Under-15 state team in the same year.
“I definitely want to play for the national team. I’ve been part of cricket environments here and back in India, but even when I lived there, I wanted to play for Australia. Now that we’re here and I’m getting this recognition, it feels like I’ve got a good stepping stone to achieve my dream,” he smiled.
A fan of cricket from the ‘60s and ‘70s, Nivethan cites Sir Gary Sobers as his idol.
“I’m pretty sure I have every single book ever written about him. When I was 14 years old, I even got a written message from him through one of my dad’s friends. It’s one of my most treasured possessions.”
Yuvraj Sharma, an 18-year-old right-handed batsmen and leg-spinner, is among three players this year to receive the Basil Sellers Scholarship for the second time.
“It feels great to win the scholarship again. It’s a sign that the coaches see great potential and believe that you’re a future prospect for the Australian team,” he explained to Indian Link.
The talented player from Fairfield-Liverpool club has represented NSW at the Under 15, Under 17, and Under 19 level. He’s also among a handful of 16-year-olds in the history of Sydney first grade cricket to reach three figures as a batsman.
While Yuvraj accepts that there can be stiff competition to reach the national level, he believes that a great cricketing country like Australia also provides equal opportunities to succeed.
Does this mean we can expect to see more diversity in the national team in the future?
“I think that we’re going to see a good representation of Indian-origin players in Australian cricket in the next few years. We’re part of the generation that moved here in the last two decades, and we’re starting to filter through. I see plenty of Indians in-state teams already!” he confirmed.
With Bageshri Savyasachi