Auckland: By the time one reads this, Ish Sodhi would have fulfilled his parents’ wish of their son playing international cricket against India, the country of their birth.
It has been quite a week for the Sodhis ahead of the first Test. Ish, the leg spinner, was playing in the domestic tournament for Northern Districts Napier till Sunday.
Rajbir Singh Sodhi, his father, was away in Brisbane on a business trip and returned home only late Tuesday.
And mother Simrat has had a difficult time managing her teaching job, busy as she been handling all the congratulatory calls pouring in from India after Ish was assured of place in the playing eleven at Eden Park.
“I know they are going to be there at the Eden Park on the first day. It is going to be a very special moment for me, mom and dad watching me play against India,” Ish told MAIL TODAY.
The family migrated from Ludhiana to Auckland 1996 when Ish was just four.
“We’ve been back there many times. It still a very big part my life. A lot of my family is back in India. Getting a chance to play Test cricket against India is like the cherry on top. They are one of the best teams in the world, which throws up a huge challenge.”
“It is also really big for an Indian or the Indian community here to say that you can play for New Zealand if you do put in hard work. It is a big honour to represent the Black Caps,” Ish said.
“Eden Park is a very special ground for me and I want to do well here.”
Coming from a family of academics, Ish told his father about his ambition at the age of 14.
"Seven years ago, he came up to me and said ‘Dad, can I ask for a favour. I love this game (cricket) and I want to do something big, please let me have a shot at this.’“
“It is common in New Zealand for kids to get into sports. We had enrolled Ish in Papatoetoe Cricket Club. He had a natural interest in the game and decided he wants to become a cricketer. So, we never became a hurdle in his way,” recalls 50-year-old Rajbir.
When India toured New Zealand in 2009, Ish missed a chance to have a go at their batsmen in the practice nets.
“I tried a couple of times but never got an opportunity to bowl in the nets. That was when Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid were here. Few of my mates got a chance to bowl to them and I was quite jealous. So, to have an opportunity to play against them at Eden Park is quite surreal.”
It will be a huge learning curve for the youngster knowing well that Indian batsmen, known to be good players of spin, will have a go at him.
“It is going to be a big challenge but I am ready for it. I will try to do the basics as well as I can. If I know I have bowled well, regardless of the fact whether I have got wickets or not, it will be satisfying.”
“I have never gone into a series targeting a certain number of wickets,” said the spinner who has got 11 wickets in five Tests.
Dipak Patel and Jeetan Patel have been New Zealand cricketers of Indian descent before Ish. And the leggie would only inspire more Indian youngsters residing in this part of the world.
“He absolutely loves the environment he’s in right now. Ish is very proud to sport a fern logo on his chest,” says Rajbir.
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