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Feature

'Iceman' Netravalkar creates the moment, and then lets it pop out

Netravalkar got rid of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma to give wings to USA's dreams but they fell short in the end

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
12-Jun-2024
Saurabh Netravalkar sent back Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma in his first two overs, USA vs India, T20 World Cup 2024, New York, June 12, 2024

Saurabh Netravalkar sent back Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma in his first two overs  •  AFP/Getty Images

Life can sometimes be too good to be true.
All these years after having left India, in a World Cup, in the brightest of lights, getting out not just the India captain, not just a fellow Mumbaikar, but a fellow Payyade Club player, caught by a fellow Payyade Club player at that.
Saurabh Netravalkar didn't even make that connection when out in the middle. Before the game he did warmly catch up with all of the Mumbai guys he had left behind. Then he bowled the wobble-seam ball to get Virat Kohli out for a golden duck. Then he got Rohit Sharma out, caught by Harmeet Singh, who had once driven his car up the Andheri train station platform. From one city that never sleeps to another, the city of blinding lights.
The ball is coming out beautifully. Even Netravalkar doesn't know which way it is going to seam. What chance does the batter stand? Rishabh Pant survives narrowly. Netravalkar carries on for a third over: 3-0-13-2 in the powerplay.
Netravalkar is the cult hero of USA cricket right now. Indian-born Americans are carrying the USA flag and draping themselves in it for a match against India. His coach Stuart Law calls him the Iceman after his Super Over against Pakistan. He is a hero to all of us stuck with jobs that require sitting at a desk. To all of us that didn't succeed at our dream job at the first go. A fan shouted to him from the stands that even he works from home. Netravalkar looked at him and smiled.
"I love my job at Oracle," he says, "and this [cricket] is, of course, my love. I enjoy entering the field, bowling every ball that I do. I'm blessed that I get to do what I love most of the time in the day."
We all have a bit of Saurabh Netravalkar in us.
He is a Goan. A seafarer at heart. So perhaps it should not be a surprise that he has made his life so far away from home.
But here he, is putting in the spell of his life against India. Within touching distance of sealing USA's progress to the Super Eight stage. He has them under pressure. His other team-mates also have assistance from the pitch, and are keeping India on a leash.
Suryakumar Yadav tweeted to him ten years ago that opportunities don't happen, you create them. Both have taken different routes to opportunities and this World Cup. Suryakumar has had his struggles before he found his true self. Netravalkar found the competition too intense and came to the USA to study. Now he is under a Suryakumar catch, one of the most difficult catches to take, running back, keeping an eye on the ball, watching it fall over your shoulder, tracking it all the way through into your hands.
Netravalkar does most things right, but it pops out of his hand. Suryakumar is a dangerous batter, capable of hitting the ball in unusual areas, a difficult man to set fields to. USA get too lost in the task, and on three occasions they take more than one minute making sure the field for Suryakumar is right, and are penalised five runs. The first penalty of its kind. Thirty-five off five over becomes 30 off five overs.
Netravalkar blames himself. "It's on me," he says. "If I had taken the catch, we could have put them under more pressure."
India go on to win. It indeed is too good to be true.

Sidharth Monga is a senior writer at ESPNcricinfo