Ludhiana-born cricketer Ish Sodhi on Friday found himself named for the first time in New Zealand's Test squad, for the upcoming tour of Bangladesh in October. As just one of two spin bowlers in the 16-man squad - the other is Bruce Martin - Sodhi could well find himself becoming the third Indian-origin player to represent New Zealand, after Dipak Patel and Jeetan Patel.
Sodhi, 20, spoke to Cricketnext on the eve of the announcement of the Test squad from Visakhapatnam, where he was playing a tour game for New Zealand A. Talking about his experience of playing in India, Sodhi said the conditions in southern India are very different than what he has seen in Punjab and that it was a challenge to adapt. "It [the experience of playing here] has been incredible. Conditions out here are hot and humid than what we see in Punjab. But it's an excellent experience," said Sodhi, whose family moved to New Zealand when he was just four.
Sodhi did not do anything of note in the two first-class matches in Vizag - he took 2 for 100 and 0 for 69 - but it was enough for the New Zealand selectors to include him in the touring party to Bangladesh. Sodhi's not-so-impressive figures at Vizag could also be from the fact that the surfaces were placid, offering little assistance to either pacers or slow bowlers. "The wickets in Vizag haven't spun too much. I would have enjoyed more if the wickets had to offer more but hopefully I will tour India again and will get plenty of chances to do well here," said Sodhi, who has played 12 first-class matches, taking 22 wickets at 48.40.
Though he might not be as effective with the ball as he would have liked, Sodhi played a useful hand with the bat in the four-day game that ended in a draw on Thursday. He made 57 and added 162 runs for the ninth wicket with Doug Bracewell, who scored 96, to take New Zealand A to 437 after being 4 for 43 at one stage. "We had set for ourselves small targets. We went on to do our job in a professional manner and I am happy that we contributed to the team's cause," Sodhi said.
Sodhi considers Ludhiana his second home, but for him representing New Zealand is a big honour. "It has been huge. Though I consider Ludhiana my second home, New Zealand is my first home," said Sodhi said, who has worked on his bowling with former offspinner Dipak Patel from a very young age. "The feeling of representing the Black Caps is extremely nice. I was able to do that for the junior side and for the A side. Hopefully I will learn more and perform better when get a chance to represent the senior side as well."
Talking about his bowling, Sodhi said he tries different variations. "I mainly bowl legspin but other than that I try to bowl the googly. I also try other variations such as the slower delivery, faster one, backspin. I work on different deliveries mostly during the off season." And while for many budding legspinners, Australian legend Shane Warne might be a role model, for Sodhi it is Anil Kumble whom he has adored since childhood. "Anil Kumble has always been my favourite bowler," he said.