Plane, gym, international debut: Tanveer Sangha takes surprise call in his stride

The legspinner only arrived in South Africa 24 hours earlier, but went on to claim four wickets

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Tanveer Sangha made an immediate mark on international cricket (file photo)  •  Getty Images

Tanveer Sangha made an immediate mark on international cricket (file photo)  •  Getty Images

Tanveer Sangha was in the gym on Wednesday morning in Durban, having only arrived in South Africa the previous day and at that point not officially part of the T20I squad, when he was told he would be making his Australia debut after Adam Zampa had woken up with a cold.
A few hours later, 21-year-old Sangha walked off Kingsmead Stadium with 4 for 31 under his belt, the second-best figures for Australia's men on T20I debut, behind only Michael Kasprowicz's 4 for 29 in their first match of the format in 2005.
The first wicket came in his opening over when Aiden Markram sliced a short delivery to backward point. In his next over, he found himself on a hat-trick when fellow debutant Dewald Brevis rifled a catch to long off. Then Sangha really caught the eye when he produced a lovely leg-break to beat Tristan Stubbs with Josh Inglis showing quick hands behind the stumps.
Mitchell Marsh, Australia's new T20I captain, praised Sangha's composure having been thrown into international cricket at a moment's notice.
"I don't think Tanveer's heart rate gets over 100," he said. "He was in the gym when he found out, he was pretty chilled and said he's ready to go. It appears he keeps it very simple which will hold him in good stead for top-level cricket.
"His demeanour is fantastic and [I'm] just really proud of him, to come in and have a debut like that was brilliant to see. He's got a great smile so hopefully we see it for many years to come."
What makes Sangha's performance even more noteworthy is that until earlier this month he had not played a match for a year after missing all last season with a stress fracture of the back. He has long been on Australia's radar and was part of a T20I tour to New Zealand in 2021 without playing, and their faith in him was clear with a place in their preliminary ODI World Cup squad.
"It's remiss of me not to mention Tanveer Sangha in that spinning department," head coach Andrew McDonald had said on SEN radio earlier in the week with an eye on the one-day series. "He's a young exciting legspinner. If something were to happen to Adam Zampa we're hoping to get some game time into him in South Africa."
Over the last couple of weeks, Sangha has sent down 74 deliveries across three outings for Birmingham Phoenix in the Hundred and his T20I debut, with nine of them claiming wickets.
Throughout the early stages of his career, he has shown himself to be a wicket-taker: before his injury, he had taken 21 and 16 in consecutive BBL seasons for Sydney Thunder.
"Tanveer's a ripping young kid," Marsh said. "What we've seen him do in the Big Bash, tonight was no different so it was great to see someone like him, his mindset, not being nervous - I'm sure he was nervous but you couldn't tell, so the way he bowled was outstanding."
"[He's] is a very attacking bowler. Like Zamps, he's a wicket-taker for us. We use him through the middle overs when we know teams will have to come hard at them. There'll be days when they go for runs, but we back them in to take wickets through the middle and it's a really important role for us. So for Tanveer to come in and fill in for Zamps this game and do a really good job for us, it's a great sign for Australian cricket."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo