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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Ambidextrous bowler Sameer Nayak ready to grab second chance with both hands

Eight years after representing UAE out on the cricket field, Nayak now ready to put his unique talents to use at World Cup of indoor cricket in Dubai

Sameer Nayak, an ambidextrous bowler, will play for the UAE in the World Cup of the game’s indoor version when it takes place in Dubai next month Christopher Pike / The National
Sameer Nayak, an ambidextrous bowler, will play for the UAE in the World Cup of the game’s indoor version when it takes place in Dubai next month Christopher Pike / The National

An ambidextrous allrounder will get a belated chance to represent the UAE at a World Cup – eight years after thinking his opportunity had gone for good.

Sameer Nayak will play for the host nation in the World Cup of the game’s indoor version when it takes place in Dubai next month.

On his last appearance on the international stage, in 2009, Nayak made a fine 60 in a brilliant stand of 145 with Khurram Khan as the UAE beat Namibia in South Africa.

Sadly for the national team, that match was a dead rubber at the end of a qualification series in which they had just missed out on 50-over cricket’s main event two years later on the subcontinent.

“The highlight of my stay in the UAE team was the 2009 World Cup qualifier,” Nayak, 42, said.

“We started off in a brilliant way, beating goods teams, then because of one bad game, all our dreams went down the drain.

“It was all of our dreams to go to the World Cup. After a few years, the other guys made it through [to the 2015 World Cup], and that was great for UAE cricket. But I missed my chance, as that was the end of it for me because of work pressures.”

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Eight years on, Nayak returns to representative duty, as the UAE host the world’s best indoor cricketers – although he says he is fortunate to still be involved.

His time with the outdoor side was curtailed by cruciate ligament damage. He only took up the indoor game after spending two years “just sat at home, killing time”.

He was going to give up for good in 2015, having turned 40, because of the toll on his body, but he carried on, mainly in an attempt to inspire his 12-year-old son.

“He watches, and he makes me want to perform well,” Nayak said.

Sameer Nayak arrived in the UAE in 1996, when his new employers, New Medical Centre, were recruiting players for their staff team after those who starred in the UAE’s maiden foray to a World Cup had left. Christopher Pike / The National
Sameer Nayak arrived in the UAE in 1996, when his new employers, New Medical Centre, were recruiting players for their staff team after those who starred in the UAE’s maiden foray to a World Cup had left. Christopher Pike / The National

“I am very lucky this chance has come. It might have come a year or two down the line, and I would have been left with a bad taste that I had missed out again, having been one of the best in indoors here.

“It makes me feel proud that I have this chance to represent the country again, having done so before outdoors.”

Mumbai-born Nayak’s life in the UAE has to a large extent been defined by cricket World Cups.

He arrived here in 1996, when his new employers, New Medical Centre, were recruiting players for their staff team after those who starred in the UAE’s maiden foray to a World Cup had left.

Now he has his chance to appear in one, he is likely to catch the eye, given his unique talents.

Sameer Nayak says: "In the indoor game, when a right-handed batsman is batting, I bowl with my left-hand, and when a left-handed batsmen is in, I bowl with my right hand." Christopher Pike / The National
Sameer Nayak says: "In the indoor game, when a right-handed batsman is batting, I bowl with my left-hand, and when a left-handed batsmen is in, I bowl with my right hand." Christopher Pike / The National

The fact he can bowl with either hand is remarkable enough. The fact it took him until he was 37 to learn the skill even more so.

“I was always a left-arm spinner, but since 2012, I have been able to bowl with both hands,” he said.

“In the indoor game, when a right-handed batsman is batting, I bowl with my left-hand, and when a left-handed batsmen is in, I bowl with my right hand.

“I am naturally ambidextrous. I did it once in a match a long time ago, with no practice. Now, having been out of the national team and free to try out new things, I tried more with the ambidextrous thing, and it has worked for me.”

Although playing at a World Cup will be the realisation of a long-held ambition, it is also tinged with a vague feeling of sadness, too.

Nayak’s brother Rohan, who is five years his junior, might also have been part of the squad, but he will now miss out because of knee surgery he underwent earlier this summer.

He opted out of playing, but was grateful to accept a place on the side’s coaching team instead.

“I took that decision early, because I also wanted to be associated with the World Cup,” Rohan said. “It is great the UAE is getting the structure for indoor cricket.”

Eight years after last representing the UAE, Sameer Nayak returns to representative duty, as the UAE host the world’s best indoor cricketers next month. Christopher Pike / The National
Eight years after last representing the UAE, Sameer Nayak returns to representative duty, as the UAE host the world’s best indoor cricketers next month. Christopher Pike / The National

The junior Nayak says that reaching this level is something the brothers would never have thought possible when they first took up the indoor game.

“Somebody invited us to play indoor cricket and we were terrible in the first game,” Rohan said.

“The whole concepts of indoor and outdoor cricket are poles apart. You don’t go for slogging here. It is a different ball game.

“We used to get beaten miserably by C and B division teams. Our goal back then was just to understand this game.

“We started a team, shelled out money from our own pockets for the entry fee, and gradually we made it from D to C, C to B, and then reached the point where the top teams wanted a merger with us.

“Now we have made it to the World Cup, and this is something additional we are looking forward to. It has been a long journey for us.”

Indoor Cricket World Cup - Sept 16-20, Insportz, Dubai

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