I didn’t expect selection: India’s standby pacer Nagwaswalla


Left-arm pace bowler Arzan Nagwaswalla was “speechless” before his eyes were filled with tears during the seven-hour journey from Ahmedabad to his village Nargol in Valsad, Gujarat, on Friday when he received news of his selection as a standby to Indian squad for the England tour.

“I called up mom and dad the first thing after I came to senses. I was so excited. I couldn’t have stopped on the road because Covid-19 protocols don’t allow you to step out of the car,” Nagwaswalla told IANS from Nargol on Saturday.

It was a seven-hour non-stop trip from Ahmedabad to his village as he munched the snacks his mother had packed for him when he had left home to join Mumbai Indians nets in March.

The 23-year-old player was returning from Delhi where he was a net bowler with the Mumbai Indians, after the Indian Premier League was postponed due to the raging Covid-19 pandemic.

The subsequent calls, congratulatory ones from friends and for interview requests from the media drained him so much that he could barely pick the phone during the last phase of his journey.

“I was exhausted. By the end of it, I was so tired that I could barely pick calls and talk,” said Nagwaswalla. “I did not expect the call. Everyone has confidence that I would get through one day or the other. I also had that confidence. [But] this was very unexpected and surprising,” he said.

Nagwaswalla thinks of himself being a left-armer was an advantage that helped him make cut. “Maybe because I am a left-arm fast bowler [I was picked]. I am young. That is the only thing. Also, my last season went well,” he said.

On reaching home, family and friends thronged Nagwaswalla. “I hugged my parents tightly. My friends, who were waiting for me at the doorstep, celebrated by ordering a cake for me,” he said.

The pace bowler, who represents Gujarat in Ranji Trophy, has picked 62 wickets in 16 first-class matches. He took 41 wickets in eight matches in the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy season.

Former Gujarat coach Vijay Patel calls him a “swing bowler and someone who has come through age-group cricket”.

“Yes, I am a swing bowler. My speed is 130-135, but I try to swing the ball,” Nagwaswalla explained.

While India’s first-choice left-arm pacer T Natarajan, who played the fourth Test against Australia in Brisbane, is injured, Nagwaswalla could be in line to follow the path of the Tamil Nadu pacer.

Natarajan went as an uncapped player to Australia but made debut in all three formats and also impressed.

India play the World Test Championship final in June and then five Test matches against England in August-September. An injury to a bowler could provide Nagwaswalla with an opportunity.

Nagwaswalla calls the stint at MI nets fruitful.

“It was a great experience. I got an opportunity to bowl to some good batsmen. I spoke to Zaheer [Khan] sir. If I would have remained at home, nothing would have happened because of the lockdown. So, it was great that I could practice and kept doing training,” he added.

It was a dream come true to be with former India pacer Zaheer, MI director of cricket operations, since he had followed him while growing up and was inspired by him.

“He didn’t do much on the bowling aspect. He said it is fine. just He said that if you train well, you will see more benefit in your bowling. He asked me to train well. He told me certain technical things,” said Nagwaswalla.

“I was left-handed. That was my advantage. We didn’t have too many left-armers in our district or even state level. I used to watch Zaheer and I got interested in bowling fast,” he said.

Nagwaswalla’s father, who was into private service, is retired now.

“I used to play with my brother, who is seven years older to me and also used to bowl. I would play with and he taught me the basics.”

Nagwaswalla was spotted by his coach in his village and from there he went to district. There was no looking back.

“My parents didn’t know much about cricket. Even I didn’t know initially. But they backed me and supported me and ensured that I go to Ahmedabad on time. They never discouraged me. They told me to keep doing if I was feeling better and said ‘we will see what happens’,” added Nagwaswalla.

The pacer could become the first cricketer in India’s main squad from the Parsi community after 46 years since Farokh Engineer played in 1975.

“Am aware of the contribution made by Parsis to cricket and the cricketers who have played for India,” he said. “As I began playing Ranji Trophy, I realised I was the only one. The day I played Ranji Trophy, I got to know that there was no Parsi cricketer playing in Ranji Trophy at the moment.”