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Faisal Jamkhandi reaps the rewards of Indian winters

For the past four years, the Canada Under-19 fast bowler has travelled halfway around the world to escape Ontario's snowstorms and find decent cricket weather and top-quality coaching. All of that is now starting to pay off

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Faisal Jamkhandi celebrates a wicket, Bangladesh v Canada, Under-19 World Cup, Group C, Lincoln, January 15, 2018

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Mississauga in the Canadian province of Ontario is a difficult place to be a cricketer. The sport is almost entirely restricted to the summer months here, thanks to the winter snowstorms, so players are invariably forced to train indoors or left to find ways to play abroad. Some travel to the nearby Caribbean, others move to the United States in search of match time with club teams.
Faisal Jamkhandi, whose 5 for 48 against Bangladesh was the first five-for of the 2018 Under-19 World Cup, travelled a slightly longer distance - to India, where his parents came from. Faisal had become interested in cricket thanks to his father, who would stay up and watch matches at odd times back home, thanks to the time zone.
Faisal was a natural athlete - he had won a number of junior track and field events in Canada - and it was only natural he would choose fast bowling when he began playing cricket as an 11-year-old.
"Training indoors was kind of frustrating, so I needed solid practice and matches, which isn't always possible in Canada because of the weather," Faisal tells ESPNcricinfo. "It was partly because of this that I decided to move out of my comfort zone to play cricket. Cricket in Canada is largely restricted to the summers, it can get a little stifling for aspiring players because you don't get too much match practice. That's why I chose to train abroad."
For the last four years, Faisal has spent six months every winter in India. Three years ago, he trained with Ian Pont, the former English first-class cricketer who is now a respected fast-bowling coach, in Bangalore, where he worked on his strength training. Then he moved to Pune to train under Surendra Bhave, the former Maharashtra batsman who has coached in the Ranji Trophy since his first-class retirement after a 15-year career.
At 17, Faisal consistently clocked speeds above 130kph in academy matches and even earned praise from the former England fast bowler Alex Tudor, now a Level 3 coach in England. Faisal has put into practice all his learnings from India when he travels back home to play for the Mississauga Ramblers Cricket Club.
"We have a number of cricketers who bring teams," Faisal says. "Desmond Haynes has brought his Under-19 sides. We've traveled to Barbados to play in the Gary Sobers Under-19 tournaments. There are also some excellent coaches like former South Africa first-class cricket Davy Jacobs, who now lives in Canada."
Faisal has finished high school and has applied at universities in India and England to pursue his cricket. He hopes to enroll for the next academic year, and wishes to some day make Canada's senior team. "I know it's tough, but my goal is to play for the national team," he says. "That could take time, it could happen immediately, but I'll try to keep training hard and let the rest take care of itself."
Before he leaves New Zealand, he hopes to keep making an impression through the remainder of the tournament. The wicket of the hard-hitting Pinak Ghosh, one of the best Bangladesh Under-19 batsman, gave him immense joy, and he now looks forward to troubling the English top order.
"Queenstown is ideal, what a dream it is to play there," he says. "Wish I can take this pitch back home. Dream conditions. Hope I can bowl another dream spell."

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo