Sandhu, 30, joined as one of four official reserves for India after UAE officials misplaced his phone number
WATCH: UAE-born Karan Singh Sandhu says getting called up for India's Indoor Cricket World Cup squad 'like getting the Hogwarts letter - only 19 years late'
A cricketer who was born and raised in the UAE says he feels like he has got “the Hogwarts letter” after being selected for India’s extended squad for the World Cup of indoor cricket.
Karan Singh Sandhu, a 30 year old who has lived in Dubai for all but five years he spent at school in New Delhi, opted for his country of heritage, rather than the one of his birth, for the tournament at Insportz, Dubai, next month.
He is the only representative based outside India in their 16-man training squad, in which he is one of four official reserves.
Sandhu says the idea of wearing the blue of India in competition is “absolutely magical,” even if he will only be called upon in the case of injury to one of the 12 first-choice players.
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“It is like getting the Hogwarts letter - only 19 years late,” said Sandhu, who is a mechanical engineer in Dubai.
“I get goosebumps when I think about it, and when I get it, I’m going to show it off everywhere that I can.
“The motivation for me was to wear those Indian colours. I am still getting jitters just thinking about it. I haven’t told all my friends, but the ones who do know about it are more excited than me about me wearing that blue clothing.
“It is the dream of every Indian to wear those colours and represent India.”
Sandhu was first introduced to indoor cricket 14 years ago when he sat with his uncle, Amit Anand, on the umpire’s plinth at the courts at Insportz during summer holidays from school.
He reached a point where he is now one of the outstanding A Division players in a format of the sport that is highly popular in the UAE.
He was one of several Dubai-based players, such as Vikrant Shetty and Ramveer Rai, who were invited to India trials at their base in Bangalore.
He was the only one to take up the offer, however, and a variety of his friends and teammates will be taking the court for the UAE in the tournament instead.
“We were all supposed to go together to train for the India team, but then they backed out,” said Sandhu, who took the best part of two weeks' leave from his job in the oil and gas industry to attend the trial in Bangalore.
“Since the beginning I have always wanted to play for India, but I did think I might get a call from UAE.
“I have been playing in the A Division for four years now. All my teammates got a call for the try outs, but I didn’t.
“I remember that day, they said they had misplaced my number, so they didn’t call me. In the meantime, the [UAE-based] sponsor of the India team gave me a call and ask me to try out for them.
“I said I would love to. The day I was flying, I got an invite to attend the UAE trials. I said thanks, but I didn’t take a second thought against going and joining the India team.”
Sandhu was recommended to the Indian selectors by the team mentor, Anis Sajan. The Dubai-based businessman estimates he has ploughed more than Dh500,000 into indoor cricket in the UAE over the past 20 years, and has sponsored many of the country’s leading players in that time.
However, he has leant his expertise to India instead for this competition, including talent-spotting expatriate talent based in Dubai, such as Sandhu.
“I felt if he had greater exposure, he could rub shoulders with players in the higher standard,” Sajan said of Sandhu.
“We sent him there for the camp, and he impressed, which is why they put him in the 16.”
Sandhu said the talent on show at the training camp in India was “immense”, even if the format is not as popular as its outdoor version in India.
“I knew indoor cricket is not that famous in India,” Sandhu said.
“I thought I had a good chance, because of my experience of 14 years of playing, and having had a recommendation, even though the coach over there hadn’t seen me at all.
“It was a challenge for me to prove myself. I had to put in extra effort, going over to their place, into their territory and trying to claim a place. It was difficult.”