National Under 19 player Arjun Nair builds on his stint as a Sydney Thunder Development Rookie
Lara. Kohli. Gayle. Sehwag. Clarke. McCullum. The names alone emanate greatness; they are synonymous with the very game of cricket itself. But before these names attracted the aura that they now command, and years before they battled against each other on the field, these players were already connected by a common thread; each was a member of his team’s Under 19 World Cup side. It is no surprise then that only the most gifted cricketers win themselves a berth to participate in this most prestigious tournament; and one of the most recent candidates to join their echelon is 17-year-old Australian all-rounder Arjun Nair.
Born in 1998 and raised in Sydney, Arjun was introduced to the game of cricket at the age of four – and like many young boys and girls across the country, the dream began with a simple game of backyard cricket. But unlike most budding cricketers, by the age of six, Arjun was playing in the under-10 team and had already been earmarked for greatness by Green Shield coach Bill Madden.
By the time he was 15, Arjun made his maiden Sydney first-grade appearance, making him the 9th youngest debutant – and youngest player of Indian origin – in the storied 122-year history of the NSW grade cricket competition.
A destructive right-hand batsman and wily off-spin bowler, Arjun’s list of accolades is unrivalled. Arjun was the leading wicket taker for Australia in the Under 19 Tri Nation Championship in Dubai in 2016, including a match against Pakistan where Arjun scored a century and took 3 wickets, a performance he credits as his favourite cricketing moment. He was the player of the All Schools Under-19 championship in 2015. He holds the Green Shield season batting record for Hawkesbury (505 runs), with an overall aggregate of 995 runs in 21 games, including 5 hundreds. He has been awarded four ‘Sportsperson of the Year’ awards by various organisations between 2012 and 2016, and he was the captain of the championship-winning NSW Combined Catholic Schools Under-19 cricket team in 2014-15.
It is Arjun’s consistent excellence and all-round talent that have led local journalists to call him “arguably the finest cricketer to come out of Hawkesbury in living memory”, while Madden has labelled Arjun the best young batting talent he has ever seen – with names like Steve Waugh, Steve O’Keefe and John Hastings a distant second. If that was not high enough praise, one Sydney first grade captain reserved for Arjun the highest honour of all, referring to him as a “young Bradman”.
Cricket is a vastly different landscape today to what it was even 15 years ago; it is now almost obligatory that a tailender be able to acquit himself with a bat in hand. Unsurprisingly then, much of the hype surrounding Arjun is his genuine all-round talent. Madden says Arjun, who can bat in the top or middle order, is unique because “he’s got the ability to take a bowling attack apart. For a little guy, he hits the ball very hard and a long way”. However, equally impressively, Arjun’s selections at the highest level have been primarily due to his performances with the ball in hand.
As is often the case, the apparent ease of Arjun’s success masks a strict and demanding four-day-a-week training regime, to which Arjun remained committed despite successfully completing his HSC at Patrician Brothers College Blacktown in 2015, and achieving entry into a Bachelor of Business degree commencing at Western Sydney University this year.
Apart from receiving confirmation of his acceptance into university, it was an exciting December for Arjun for other reasons: on 15 December 2015, Arjun was named Sydney Thunder’s Development Rookie for the recently concluded Big Bash League. Given Sydney Thunder’s unprecedented success in what was the most successful domestic competition ever staged in Australia, it would undoubtedly have been an enriching experience for the youngster.
“A great experience and a great challenge for me to up my game. Mike Hussey is someone I’ve watched on TV for a long time, I’ll definitely use his brain and learn more about the game,” said Arjun.
In the immediate future, Arjun, who idolises former Australian wicketkeeper and left-hand destroyer Adam Gilchrist, and Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo, hopes to become a consistent player for the NSW 2nd XI, and like his predecessor, former Sydney Thunder rookie Jake Doran, play a game in the next edition of the Big Bash League. Arjun will be in good company and will not have to look far for inspiration; Gurinder Sandhu, a stalwart of the Sydney Thunder side since his debut, and with whom Indian Link spoke upon his selection in the Australian U-19 World Cup side in 2012, has since represented Australia in ODI and T20I cricket, and has become a regular fixture of the NSW Sheffield Shield team.
His NSW U-17 coach, former Australian test opener Phil Jacques, believes Arjun has what it takes to make it to the pinnacle.
“His work ethic, attitude, and desire to succeed shines through in everything he does,” said Jacques, describing Arjun’s potential to play test cricket for Australia. “He has immense ability as a middle order batsman and off spin bowler and is a good team player.’’
He’s worth watching closely – this may be the beginning of something special.