Arjun Nair - Sydney Thunder and NSW all-rounder
My parents came to Australia in 1997 from the coastal state of Kerala in the Southwest of India. I was born in 1998 in Canberra. It was inevitable that cricket became part of my DNA, especially when my roots are deeply immersed in these two proud cricketing nations. I have not been back to Kerala for eight years; however, cricket was the reason I returned to India in 2016 for the MRF Cricket academy in Chennai.
I have always played cricket.
From the young age of six, I have wanted to be a professional cricketer. It was a dream and a burning passion that became a reality. When you are younger, most things are for entertainment and fun but the more you practice and give time to anything in life, you start to get better and do better. My relationship with cricket followed the same recipe. I played under-10s at the age of six for Wenty Leagues. I was very small. I used to wear my football shin-pad as an arm-guard. I remember very fondly those days. During those times, when you are playing under-10s, you can only face 18 deliveries and then you must retire. In my first three matches, I was unbeaten, but I could not score any runs either. It was probably in my fourth or fifth match that I registered my first run after playing an on-drive and taking a quick single.
I went on to play representative levels for Parramatta for the under-11s through to under-14s age groups. Following this, I participated in the Green Shield competition, an under-16s competition that is an important stepping-stone for state representation. The most important competition was called the Green Shield, which was an under-16s competition. I did extremely well in this competition and especially with the bat. And on the back of some good performances at around the age of 15, I got selected for the NSW under-17s team. It was also at this time when I added off-spin to my arsenal after seeing West Indian Sunil Narine bowl in the IPL. He took five wickets in the first match I watched in the IPL. I wanted to bowl like Sunil Narine. After watching multiple YouTube videos and replicating Narine’s action, I decided to practice with my father in the nets. It started as an experiment, but with days and months of practice, I kept getting better. My dream started to become a reality when I received a call-up for the Australia Under-19s team. I saw this as a confirmation that I can mix it up at the higher and professional levels.
It was a quick rise. When I made the under-19s national team, it was a big step. All the hard work and sweat that I put in the nets with my father was coming to fruition. I remember I missed my HSC trial examinations because I was picked to take on England in England. Being picked for the Under-19s World Cup squad was a bittersweet moment for me. It is always an honour and a privilege to be picked for Australia at any level, but the team did not go due to security concerns about the tournament, which was held in Bangladesh. Instead, we played a tri-series tournament in Dubai against Pakistan and New Zealand. This is where I made big strides in terms of performances and making a mark. I took ten wickets in three matches with a low economy rate. I also scored a century as an opener in one of the matches. And so, this was an incredible boost for me. I returned to Australia and played for NSW second XI and took nine wickets on my debut. A week after, I was picked for the NSW Sheffield Shield team at the age of 17 and took a couple of wickets and scored 37 batting at ten. I did not take this for granted and used every opportunity as a learning experience.
Now playing for the Sydney Thunder, I have had some wonderful memories. Sharing the dressing room with the likes of Michael Hussey, Shane Watson and recently with the likes of Jos Buttler and Joe Root has been an amazing experience. People know that they are great on the pitch, but not many know what great people they are off it. They have genuine warm personalities; they are caring and very easy to speak to. I have learnt how to be grounded from them. When it comes to spin bowling, Fawad Ahmed has been very supportive. Even though he is a leg-spinner and I am an off-spinner, I have recognized that there are numerous dimensions to the art of spin. I have appreciated the tactics and the understanding of breaking down the techniques of batsmen. In terms of batting – even though Watson is a completely different player to me, I have learnt how to structure an innings and increase the tempo at different moments in a match. I cannot thank the Thunder franchise enough for my time with them.
Early last year, I suffered a setback. I got reported for a suspect action. Three of the 24 balls that I bowled against the Hurricanes in one of the Big Bash games were suggestive that my action was not within the limits. During the testing, I was quite certain that I would have nothing to be concerned about. The reports returned stating that the degree of straightening during delivery was within the permissible 15 degrees. But under match conditions, it stated that my degree of permissibility was not consistent. Obviously, under match conditions, you tend not to focus as much. But under ICC Accredited Testing Centre, with the use of state-of-the-art technology and under the supervision of experts in the science of human movement, you tend to focus more. I underwent a three-month ban, which had a significant effect on me. I played only as a batsman in the last two matches and did quite well. I knew I would come back from this episode much stronger. Self-belief is something that is never lacking. I saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and I worked really hard. I am extremely grateful to my coaches in Beau Casson and Anthony Clark. They were fantastic to be around. They are the two best spin coaches in the country and therefore, working with them was just the tonic for me while remodelling my action.
My dad has been an enormous part of my cricketing journey. He would drive me everywhere for training, carnivals and for matches even if it was interstate. He used to throw millions of balls and still does. He has made a lot of sacrifices to ensure I have every opportunity to succeed. My mum has always been supportive. She now knows a lot about cricket due mainly because of me. Both have supported me throughout the years and still do.
Moving forward, my number one goal is to play for Australia. But in the short term, I want to give my best for the Sydney Thunder in the BBL. Obviously last year, I had stress fractures in my back and therefore I did not play many matches. I did a lot of work to make my action cleaner and did a lot of gym work. A mixture of both contributed to stress fractures over time. Therefore, the aim for me is to stay fit and play as many matches. I would love to win the Big Bash with the Thunder. I also want to do well for NSW. If I had any message for young cricketers, it Is that without self-belief will not succeed. You may have prodigious talent, but without self-belief, you will be like a Ferrari without a driver.
Outside of cricket, I am a big family man. I like to spend a lot of time with my family and friends. I feel it is important to take my mind off cricket and focus on more important things in life especially with my parents obviously. I like to watch movies, TV shows, love watching football. In fact, I love watching football more than cricket. Cristiano Ronaldo is my absolute favourite sportsperson. During my down time, I play a lot of FIFA.