x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Teenage volunteer bowls through the Indian order

There are not too many jobs a teenager would volunteer to wake up at 5am for, but bowling against India's first XI is one of them.

LONDON // There are not too many jobs a teenager would volunteer to wake up at 5am for and happily drive hours to get to - all for no pay.

Equally, there are some opportunities which are too good to miss. When Aditya Rai, a young Indian born off-spinner, was invited to come and bowl at India's players in nets sessions at Lord's, geography and an early start counted for nothing.

"I woke up at 5am and thought I was dreaming," Rai, who moved to the UK from Delhi when he was 13 and is now aspiring to a career in the county game, said.

"I have driven from Bristol to get here, and all the way up I was thinking: 'If I'm lucky enough, I'll get a couple of balls to bowl to Sachin Tendulkar.'

"But I got really lucky. I started in a net bowling with Harbhajan Singh and I bowled at all the batsmen, all the way through from No 1 to No 11.

"It was a very good experience to bowl with Bhajji [Harbhajan] because I am also an off-spinner. I asked him what I should do to get more drift, and he told me a few things."

Another area of excellence at a Lord's Test is the quality of practise facilities.

The players have the run of the Nursery field and the eight-lane indoor nets, as well as a ready supply of net bowlers.

The MCC have 16 professionals on their Young Cricketers programme, and they call in additional help - including volunteers such as Rai - when it comes to major match days.

"I was a bit nervous and I bowled a couple of full tosses," Rai said.

"Sachin saw that and he said, 'Don't worry, just calm down and relax', and I bowled a lot better after that.

"I bowled really well, but didn't get any wickets.

"I might have had MS Dhoni caught if it hadn't been in the nets, but you can't really count that as out."