‘Cricket Comes Home’ — the tagline of Global T20 Canada excites one and all, including the players. The tournament will be held in King City, Ontario from 28 June to 15 July to improve the state of cricket in North America. Big-ticket players such as Steve Smith, David Warner, Shahid Afridi, Chris Gayle, among others are set to participate in this event, but importantly, this is a golden chance for the Canada cricketers to get the limelight. Their performance will be crucial in helping Canada cricket grow.
One such name that will be in the spotlight as the League gets underway on Thursday is Nikhil Dutta — the first Canada cricketer to get selected in Global T20 Canada draft. He played a crucial role in Canada’s success in this year’s ICC World Cricket League Division Two. He has also played for Barisal Bulls in Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) and St Kitts and Nevis Patriots in Caribbean Premier League (CPL). He will play for Toronto Nationals in Global T20 Canada 2018.
Firstpost caught up with Dutta to talk about the importance of the league for the country, his goals and cricket in Canada.
What was the feeling when you became the first Canadian player to get selected in the Global T20 Canada?
It was a great feeling to get selected as the first Canadian player in the league, to be honest. It is a great initiative by Cricket Canada and Mercuri Canada to have this tournament because it will provide a good experience to all Canadian players to play with the best cricketers of the world. This is the great opportunity for everybody who got picked (in the draft) to show what they have to offer.
How important will this tournament be for you in terms of the exposure?
Oh, it will be a very important tournament for me as far as the exposure is concerned. You don’t get opportunities like this often so it’s a good thing and you need to make it count whenever you get a chance to play. Practice consistently along with the guidance of the foreign coaches and learn from them as much as we can.
What are your goals for the tournament?
As of yet, my main goal is to learn as much as I can from the players with whom I will play in the league. I would like to apply the learnings on the field. I want to improve my game as much as I can each day. I want to see how they train and practice because at the end of the day they are the best in the world and if you want to perform like them then you need to watch and talk with them. I will get this opportunity now.
You were the joint fourth highest wicket-taker in 2017/18 ICC World Cricket League Divison Two. What were your biggest learnings from the tournament?
I played the same kind of tournament around four years ago in Namibia (2015) so I just applied what I learnt from that tournament in this year’s tournament (in 2017/18 ICC World Cricket League Divison Two) but it was unfortunate that we did not qualify however, the main goal was to assess the situations calmly and try to be patient while bowling my variations which are my weapons.
Who was your idol growing up?
My idol is Sunil Narine. I really like his bowling. I always try to watch his clips and learn as much as I can. I even had the opportunity to speak to him during CPL.
Is it true that your ‘Doosra’ is hard to pick? How important is it for a player to have a secret weapon in this day and age?
I cannot comment on that (whether my Doosra is hard to pick) but it is very important to have a secret weapon because now-a-days, it is more of becoming a batsman’s game so as a bowler you need to come up with something different always. So in order to contain the batsmen and according to the format of the game, you need to decide which kind of deliveries you need to bowl which is very important.
Have you been working on developing any other deliveries?
Oh, not really. I will just try to play with what I have in my armoury at the moment.
Leg spinners are in demand now-a-days in T20 cricket but in your opinion, what is important for an off-spinner – taking wickets or bowling economical spells?
I think that the most important thing is to try and bowl economically as it’s always important to give away fewer runs. If you contain the batsmen then they will try to score runs and you will have more chances to get wickets. And leg spinners are doing a really good job and as you asked me earlier about developing other deliveries, I have been trying to work on a couple of leg-break deliveries as in googly and the one that goes straight on. I have been practising hard, bowling well in club cricket so hopefully, I will deliver for my team if I get an opportunity.
You were born in Kuwait and now you are playing cricket for Canada. What's the story behind it?
I was actually brought up in Canada. My family moved here when I was six so they enrolled me in a cricket academy and then I started playing at the junior levels for Canada and then from thereon at the senior level and in the various leagues so basically I have learnt all my cricket in Canada.
You are playing with your captain – Nitish Kumar in Toronto Nationals. How's the practice going on?
Nitish is practising at Toronto Cricket Club and I am practising in the indoor cricket facility. Everyone is practising on his own. We have a couple of discussions during the week to develop the team atmosphere before the tournament begins.
How is the life of a Canadian cricketer?
The life of a Canadian cricketer is good. You have to work and play cricket simultaneously. But with these kinds of tournaments, cricket will grow in Canada and with big players coming up, the youngsters will be inspired, and they will understand that as a cricketer in Canada, you can do something great.
Which is your favourite format?
I enjoy bowling in T20s. I like to bowl when batsmen try to attack me because it gives me more chances to take wickets and it is the fastest format so I enjoy the pace of the game.
You have also played in BPL and CPL so is there anything that you would like to improve upon?
When I come back from the CPL, I always try to improve and not commit the same mistakes which would have made during the tournament. I always try to observe what the players are doing, especially spinners in my team. I have been privileged to play with some great spinners like Samuel Badree, Tabraiz Shamsi, Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Nabi. So, I try to pick up something every time when I play with them and then see how I can implement that in my own bowling and try to improve my game.
The biggest compliment that you have received in your cricketing career so far?
In my first year of CPL when nobody had seen me, Marlon Samuels told me that he likes my bowling and variations when we were doing the practice so that was the biggest compliment that I ever received because I was unknown at that time.
Sunil Narine has developed his batting too so are you working towards that aspect as well?
I actually batted up the order in the league games in the last tournament and I am trying to develop my hitting game because it is very important to be an all-rounder in this day and age considering the demands of the game. I would like to contribute with both bat and ball. Let’s see how it goes and hopefully, it will pay off.