Emerging Sandhu wins another award
Gurinder Sandhu began the 2012-13 season with a state rookie contract for the first time and modest goals in mind. By the end of the summer he had represented Australia A and the Prime Minister's XI, played all three formats domestically, and won the Steve Waugh Medal as the best New South Wales player of the domestic campaign. That would be enough to satisfy anyone in their debut season.
But there is one final honour heading Sandhu's way: he has been voted the Australian Cricketers' Association Player of the Month for March. It has been an incredibly rapid rise for Sandhu, a 19-year-old fast bowler who first emerged in the BBL in December while playing for the Sydney Thunder. Last year he was part of Australia's Under-19 World Cup team; over the coming year a call-up to the senior side is not out of the realms of possibility.
"At the start of the season I would have been happy just playing a couple of Ryobi Cup games," Sandhu told ESPNcricinfo. "I played four of them and then a couple of Shield games at the end of the season and that topped it off even better. The Australia A games came out of nowhere, a bit like the Prime Minister's XI game. I just ran with it all and tried to do my thing."
And Sandhu's thing is to take wickets. In six one-day games - including two for Australia A against the England Lions - he has collected 18 wickets at 14.22 and in his two Sheffield Shield appearances he has managed 14 victims at 11.85. At 194 centimetres, Sandhu uses his height to gain bounce and he has shown that he can swing the ball both ways.
"I like to keep the batsman guessing," he said. But Sandhu knows there is plenty of room for improvement. He and another young New South Wales fast bowler, Chris Tremain, recently travelled to Perth for some sessions with Dennis Lillee and Sandhu said Lillee had helped him with some technical issues, including a tweak to the way he positions his front arm.
Of course, Sandhu is of a generation that has only heard of Lillee's exploits rather than witnessing them first hand. The men he wants to emulate are much more modern. Although he hopes to bowl in a similar style to Glenn McGrath, hitting a consistent spot and nibbling the ball around a fraction, Sandhu also sees Andrew Flintoff as another role model.
"He's a pretty big guy as well and I'm trying to work on my batting to become a bowling allrounder," Sandhu said. "Maybe one day."
An innings of 45 against South Australia in his second Shield match showed that there is some batting potential there, although he is yet to score a half-century in first-grade cricket for Fairfield-Liverpool in Sydney. He is not the only Sandhu to have played at the top level for that club: his younger brother Harmon Sandhu made his first-grade debut this summer.
"He filled in for me when I played the couple of Shield games," Sandhu said of Harmon, who is also a fast bowler. "He played two games before the end of the season. He's not as quick yet, he's only 16 at the moment. Hopefully maybe this year we might play a couple of games together."
The Sandhu brothers were born in Australia after their parents Iqbal and Mukhtyar, originally from Punjab in India, moved to Sydney in the 1980s. Iqbal's job as a taxi driver allowed him to ferry the boys around to all their junior cricket matches, a commitment that has paid off handsomely given his son's success this season.
And while Sandhu dreams of one day earning a baggy green, his ambitions for the coming year - which should feature a stint at the Centre of Excellence in Brisbane and a trip to the MRF Pace Academy in Chennai - are more grounded.
"Hopefully I can cement my spot in the New South Wales team in the Ryobi Cup and the Sheffield Shield and then any higher honours are a bonus, like any more Australia A games," Sandhu said. "One day if I could play for Australia it would be pretty nice."
Sandhu received 23.5% of the votes for the ACA's Player of the Month award for March, ahead of Michael Hussey on 21.6% and Ryan Harris with 11.8%.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here