Saurabh Netravalkar: “It will be an emotional moment to play alongside some of my childhood teammates at the T20 World Cup”

Saurabh Netravalkar, who was India’s highest wicket-taker at the U19 World Cup in 2010, takes us through his journey from Mumbai to the USA Cricket Team.

Umaima Saeed
Umaima Saeed

Last Updated: 2024-04-25

Louis Hobbs

9 minutes read

In a tweet from November 2021, billionaire Elon Musk acknowledged the significant contributions made by Indian talent to the United States. Responding to Musk's statement, former Indian cricket player Wasim Jaffer shared a photograph of Saurabh Netravalkar, then serving as captain of the USA cricket team. Jaffer suggested that Netravalkar, an individual of Indian origin representing the American cricket team, contributed to the team’s success.

The left-arm pacer, Netravalkar was born and brought up in Mumbai. In 2008, he took 30 wickets in six games in the Cooch Behar Trophy. In 2010, during the U-19 World Cup campaign, Netravalkar emerged as India’s leading wicket-taker, notably dismissing Joe Root among others.

Three years following this achievement, Netravalkar made his debut in the Ranji Trophy representing Mumbai against Karnataka, picking up three wickets. This match would stand as the sole appearance in his Ranji career, as he subsequently opted to relocate to the United States. 

"I grew up playing cricket in Mumbai. I gradually advanced ranks in youth cricket and played for India U-19 at the 2010 World Cup. I made my First-Class debut for Mumbai at the Ranji Trophy in 2013," Netravalkar tells Sportsboom. "My Ranji debut was very special.

As a child I always dreamt of playing for Mumbai and subsequently for India. It was a gratifying and blessed feeling to receive the Mumbai cap," reminisces the 6-foot-tall speedster.

Juggling studies and cricket 

Besides his love for cricket, Netravalkar was equally devoted to his studies. While actively pursuing his cricket career, he also pursued an engineering degree from the Sardar Patel Institute of Technology in Mumbai. 

"I was also pursuing a Computer Science Undergraduate Degree in Mumbai alongside my cricket career. In 2015, I took the decision to move to the USA to pursue a Masters Degree in Computer Science on receiving an admission offer at Cornell University, one of the top universities for my field of study," says the Malad boy. 

While pursuing his master's degree in the US, Saurabh juggled academics with cricket, initially playing at the university level before transitioning to club cricket. "I started playing cricket socially first at University in the USA and subsequently club leagues across the USA and made my way gradually into the USA cricket team.”

Image Credits: Alex Davidson-ICC/ICC via Getty Images

Image Credits: Alex Davidson-ICC/ICC via Getty Images

Taking up captaincy 

Netravalkar's consistent performances for the USA team earned him the captaincy role for three years. Under his leadership, the team achieved ODI status, marking a significant milestone in their journey.

"It was a privilege and honour to have been entrusted that role for three years from 2018-2021 and happy that we did well and climbed our way to ODI status. Our coach at the time, Pubudu, was the visionary who showed the trust in me and most of the credit goes to him. We had a special bunch of players who all performed their roles when needed. I had many experienced players to guide me as well as captaincy was very new to me," recalls Netravalkar, who doubles up as a software engineer at Oracle, one of the largest software companies in the world. 

Finding balance with a full-time job

Balancing a full-time job and professional cricket demands meticulous time management. Netravalkar credits Oracle for providing the crucial support that has enabled him to strike a balance between his cricketing pursuits and professional responsibilities.

"I’ve been very lucky and grateful to have a supportive work environment at Oracle where I can work remotely on cricket tours when required. I usually put in my hours of work around my cricket training times. Sometimes that means putting in odd hours of work to manage office meetings, but more so I’ve learned how to smartly prioritize and complete my work tasks around my cricket schedule," he explains. 

Playing in tournaments like Major League Cricket (MLC), Caribbean Premier League (CPL), and the Abu Dhabi T10 has significantly intensified Netravalkar's cricketing schedule. MLC, in particular, has been instrumental in fostering the growth of cricket in the USA. Organized by American Cricket Enterprises (ACE) and officially sanctioned by USA Cricket, MLC offers a platform for top-tier T20 cricket action.

"The inaugural season of MLC has given us the platform to play alongside top quality cricketers across the globe as well as given us access to top coaching staff. My MLC franchise Washington Freedom also organized a training camp for us USA locals to train in Australia which was a great opportunity. The quality of local cricket is growing exponentially not just with professional cricketers but also there is very promising and talented youth coming up as well," he observes. 

Family support during peak performance

During a match against the San Francisco Unicorns, Netravalkar was unstoppable, taking six wickets for just nine runs. He dismissed top batsmen like Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, and Shadab Khan. In other games, he also got out players like Faf du Plessis and Jason Roy. Netravalkar mentions that what made his remarkable 6-9 bowling performance even more memorable was the presence of his family in the stands.

"During that spell, I knew that I was bowling alongside Anrich Norje and Marco Jansen as the other fast bowlers so I knew the batsmen would try to attack me. I wanted to just bowl good length balls and try to swing the ball and bowl dot balls. But when I got the first wicket bowled when the ball was swinging, that boosted my confidence. Two of those wickets go to Glenn Philips who took some outstanding catches! It was a memorable day as I had my wife, my uncle both present in person for that game," he fondly remembers.

Looking forward to the World Cup

Netravalkar's next assignment is USthe A T20 team's series against Canada, which will serve as a platform for the USA team to finalize their squad for the upcoming T20 World Cup. The USA has secured qualification for the tournament as the host country.
Participating in the World Cup will be a monumental moment for the USA team, and they are leaving no stone unturned in their preparation, ensuring thorough groundwork ahead of the tournament.

"We just concluded a national T20 tournament and are currently having a training/selection camp in Houston Texas. Potentially we have a couple of bilateral series scheduled as well. Hoping everything comes together and we should be ready to hit the ground running come our first game in June," says Netravalkar, who could potentially be playing against some of his childhood teammates in the match against India on June 12. 

Image Credit: Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images

Image Credit: Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images

"If given the opportunity to represent the USA at the World Cup, I will try and give my best for my team. It will definitely be an emotional moment to play alongside some of my childhood teammates back in India! I’m very happy for all of them and I keep following their performances! Hope I get the opportunity and if so, really looking forward to it," he expresses optimistically.

Growing up with a favourite player

One Indian cricketer that Netravalkar is particularly fond of is Shardul Thakur, whom he grew up playing with. 

quote icon

My favourite Indian cricketer is Shardul Thakur. I grew up playing with him, we share the same birthday, and I am so happy to see him make a mark for Mumbai and India

Saurabh Netravalkar on Shardul Thakur

Showing flexibility to adhere to team needs

At the World Cup, the USA team will be up not only against India but also Pakistan. Both these teams boast some of the world's best batters, but Netravalkar isn't targeting specific wickets. His focus is simply on delivering whatever is required of him for the team. 

"I think my focus will just be to perform the role that I’m given to the best of my ability and I think stats like good economy rate, important wickets in crucial situations will be an outcome if I do my process well and prepare well physically as well as mentally and that’s my goal," he states confidently. 

Mental and physical prep

So how does Netravalkar prepare physically and mentally? In addition to conventional training methods, he incorporates yoga into his routine, recognizing its importance in sustaining the rigorous demands placed on fast bowlers. This holistic approach ensures he is both physically and mentally prepared. 

it's"Me and my wife try our best to follow a plant-based whole food diet as far as possible for the last two to three years. Also, I have been following a spiritual journey with regular practice of Ashtanga yoga for more than a year now and its turning out to be a transformative experience both in physical health as well as mental health and overall wellbeing. It’s just the beginning and I want to continue to pursue the journey to see where it leads me," he says. 

A surprise passion outside of cricket

While Netravalkar excels as a bowler on the cricket field, off the pitch, he embodies the spirit of an all-rounder. Balancing a full-time job alongside his cricket commitments, he also finds time to pursue his passion for playing the ukulele.

"I got the Ukulele as a secret Santa gift! We play it every year with our friends’ group in the USA. I just started learning with YouTube videos and started loving it! I wouldn’t say I play well, I do basic stuff but I have fun doing it and singing along," he sings off. 

Netravalkar, truly, demonstrates versatility both on and off the field. We wish him good luck for the upcoming T20 World Cup. 

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Umaima Saeed
Umaima SaeedSports Writer

Umaima Saeed is a professional sports writer whose articles have been featured in several leading websites. She writes long-form content on sports, particularly cricket. She has a penchant for telling human-interest stories. Umaima has contributed articles on cricket to more than a dozen publications, both in print and online.