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IPL, Tasmania and ambidexterity: An exclusive with Nivethan Radhakrishnan

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Roar Guru
26th June, 2021
6

Before having a professional contract with any state, Nivethan Radhakrishnan has already shared a dressing room with Ravichandran Ashwin, Hanuma Vihari, Steve Smith, Kagiso Rabada and a host of other international cricketers.

Having signed for Tasmania on a rookie contract less than two weeks ago after spending his early teens playing for New South Wales age group teams, the all-rounder who can bowl spin with both arms will get to share a dressing room with Australian Test captain Tim Paine.

In a long-form interview, I asked Radhakrishnan about a variety of topics, such as idolising a West Indian legend, being part of the IPL as a net bowler and how he signed for the Tasmanian Tigers.

Growing up in Chennai before you moved to Australia, who were your cricketing heroes?

I never really idolised any modern cricketers or cricketers who kids my age growing up idolised! I found myself idolising Sir Garfield Sobers and loved how he played the game and he became my one and only idol to date.

Arriving in Australia as a ten-year-old, do you feel cricket helped you settle in Australia quicker than expected?

Definitely. I didn’t realise it when I got here but looking back, I never had any trouble settling into the Aussie way of life! Cricket is an integral part of Aussie culture and it’s all I’ve ever known.

The people I’ve met, along with the places I’ve been to within Australia through cricket, have made me the person I am.

A few years after leaving India for Australia, you were back in your birth city of Chennai in your early teens, having been part of the 2017 and 2018 Tamil Nadu Premier League. How did that opportunity come about and what were your biggest takeaways from learning from two Tamil Nadu legends in Subramaniam Badrinath and Ravichandran Ashwin?

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Most people agree that your early teens are really when you learn a lot of your cricketing skills and knowledge – it’s the ideal learning stage.

To be able to mingle with legends like those two was invaluable; any budding cricketer dreams of opportunities like that. Fortunately, I was able to be in those environments and interact with them and improve my cricketing acumen, especially with how the modern game is evolving.

Despite not playing in the TNPL, did being around some of the big names of Tamil Nadu cricket help you before you made your first grade debut for Hawkesbury in 2018?

I never felt underwhelmed about the fact that I didn’t play in the TNPL. It was some of the best experiences of my life, cricket and life included. It prepared me tremendously for my cricketing future, moving into first grade and on.

Despite the cricketing differences of playing in India and Australia, the knowledge I had gained during my time in the TNPL made me fit right into first grade level and perform without any qualms!

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After playing three first grade games, you were part of the Australian under-16 squad that toured UAE for a one-day series and solitary T20 match against Pakistan in January 2019, where you played four one-dayers, plus the lone T20. How was that experience of representing your nation at an age group level, alongside having Chris Rogers as the coach?

It was the first and only time I’ve represented my country against another! The feeling I got walking onto the field during that tour is still unmatched, I’d say. The wealth of knowledge and cricketing brilliance we had as a squad and Chris Rogers was awesome!

We played some high quality cricket against an outstanding Pakistan outfit who gave us a tough time! However, the experience overall was amazing and memories were made for life.

Two months ago, you were playing for NSW Metro in a three-day match before jetting off to India for the 2021 IPL as a net bowler for the Delhi Capitals. When did Delhi approach you and how was the experience of bowling (and a rare batting opportunity) to a star studded Delhi line-up?

It came out of the blue, to be honest. I think they’d seen footage of me and heard of my skills through the grapevine and offered me an unbelievable opportunity, once in a lifetime, I’d say!

Generic cricket ball

(Steven Paston – EMPICS/Getty Images)

Mingling with some of the best cricketers in the world and seeing them at their best is still something I haven’t snapped out of! Being able to bowl to them and bat against them made the entire experience invaluable and allowed me to evaluate my skills and compare myself to the players who I want to be like!

What was the mood in the Delhi squad after the 2021 IPL had been postponed following a few players and staff testing positive for COVID-19?

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I wasn’t too aware of the squad’s feelings but guessing in conjunction with my own, I’m sure there was fear and uncertainty of what was going to happen. I, for one, definitely felt a bit guilty, I guess, as it made me realise what had been continuing outside of our hotels and bubble.

On June 16, Tasmania announced they had signed you on a rookie contract. When did you know they were interested in signing you and what convinced you to pack your bags and leave NSW for Tasmania?

I’m not sure when Tasmania gained interest in signing me. I found out through my agent during my trip with the Delhi Capitals.

From then on, it was just weighing my options between NSW and them. While NSW had taken care of me from my first pathway experience, what Tasmania offered me in terms of my future convinced me that I was making the right choice moving.

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Being an ambidextrous spinner who can bat as well, do you feel your ambidexterity has helped you stand out more from your peers at grade and age group cricket?

Without a doubt! From the most experienced cricketing personalities to random weekend-watchers of cricket, my ambidexterity is probably what’s always caught their attention.

I’m not sure if it’s a negative, but I’ve never allowed it to be seen as a gimmick while also maintaining my status as an opening batsman through and through. It’s been hard to do that at times with the attention my bowling receives, but I guess it’s made me unique when compared to my peers and colleagues when I play.

What are your plans for the 2021-22 season with Tasmania and will you be going to the UAE for the second leg of 2021 IPL?

I haven’t seen that far ahead into the season but I’m pretty sure there’s no chance of me going back for the second leg of the IPL with my commitments here at home. As for my plans with Tasmania, I don’t have any set ideas or thoughts about my season yet.

I’m just getting into the groove with preseason training and finding my feet within the system here. I’m eager for the season and hoping for plenty of runs and wickets, but for now I just want to get through this winter!

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