National cricketers to test themselves Down Under

ALI KASIM

When national cricketer C. Surendran got a call to represent an invitational team in the Twenty20 Aussie Cricket League in Melbourne later this month, he thought it was a scam.

The 33-year-old, who plays for Indian Association in the Singapore Cricket Association’s premier league, said he gets DMs (direct messages) on his Instagram from time to time that turn out to be bogus.

“Some people will say this and that and ask me many questions,” he said. “So I thought this was just some scam. But this person gave good answers to some of my questions. Then I realised he was serious.”

The person turned out to be a scout from the Canadian Wolves – one of the eight teams in the competition – who watched Surendran play in a local match here earlier this year.

Naturally, when he realised the invitation was real, Surendran got caught up in the excitement. After all, for the first time in his career, he will be sharing a field with international stars such as Pakistani bowler Mohammad Amir and Afghanistan wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Shahzad.

The tournament in Melbourne will be held from Dec 17 to 24. Launched in 2021, it is regarded as the second tier to the Big Bash League, the premier annual Twenty20 tournament Down Under.

For batter Surendran, who hails from Tamil Nadu and has played for Singapore since 2016, it will be his first time playing – and visiting – Australia.

“I’ve taken unpaid leave from work (he works at a pharmaceutical company) many times to travel and play with the national team. I had to do the same thing this time around too,” he said.

His flight tickets and accommodation are paid for, but he’s not sure whether he’ll get any allowance or even a share of the prize money.

Not that he’s bothered with any of that.

“I’m not looking for payment,” he said. “I just want to give a good account of myself, and focus on playing some good cricket when I’m there.”

If he’s ever daunted by his new surroundings, he can take comfort from the fact he won’t be alone.

His national teammate Vinoth Bhaskaran, a left-arm spinner and middle-order batter, also received the invite.

Vinoth too impressed while being watched by the same scout in a local match here.

“I was very happy when I was asked to play in Australia,” said Vinoth, 33, who turns out for Ceylon Sports Club in the local league and has been in the national team since 2018.

“This would be my first time playing against such experienced players. It’s exciting to know I’m going to test myself against the highest standard.”

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