T20 World Cup: Meet Netra, the Oracle techie and a Super Over hero for US

Former U-19 India star had been a teammate of KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal in 2010 Youth World Cup

Saurabh Netravalkar now (Left); as a member of Under-19 India team in 2010. (Getty Images)
Saurabh Netravalkar now (Left); as a member of Under-19 India team in 2010. (Getty Images)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

The US upset win over former champions Pakistan in the Super Over in Dallas on Thursday could well have served as a wake-up call for other major cricket-playing countries in the T20 World Cup.

This format has a penchant of not caring for reputations as the co-hosts showed they could pack a punch when they surprised Bangladesh 2-1 in a build-up T20I series just on the eve of the showpiece.

A look at the composition of the US team, much like several other associate members, shows expat players making their mark but then Saurav Netravalkar – who struck timely blows with his left-arm medium pace against Pakistan and was their Super Over hero – is one with solid credentials.

He was a member of India’s Under-19 World Cup squad in 2010, opening the attack in a team led by K.L. Rahul with other notable members in Mayank Agarwal, Harshal Patel, Jaydev Unadkat and Sandeep Sharma.

Nicknamed ‘Netra,’ the senior software engineer of Oracle struck an early blow on Thursday when he removed Pakistan’s dangerman Mohammed Rizwan in his first over.

He also bagged the wicket of Iftikhar Ahmed in the 18th over to finish with impressive figures of 4-0-18-2 and then was again handed the ball in the Super Over in view of his experience and quality.

Tasked with the job of defending 18 runs, Netra kept his nerves to leak only 13 and win the game for the underdogs by five runs.

Despite making an early impression in the 2010 Youth World Cup, where he was India’s highest wicket taker with nine wickets from six games, Netra decided to take the tough call of prioritising academics over cricket.

In fact, it was 14 years back in that World Cup that he had his first match-up with Babar Azam – the current Pakistan skipper – but ended up on the losing side. Incidentally, he also made his Ranji Trophy debut for Mumbai, albeit for one match during his student days in Mumbai University.

Migrating to the US in 2015 after completing a bachelor’s degree, he did his masters in computer science from Cornell University the next year and is currently  the Principal Member of the Technical Staff at Oracle.  Much to his credit, the 32-year-old did not let go off his passion completely as he made his international debut against the UAE in Dubai in 2019 and is their most capped player with 48 ODIs and 29 T20Is.

A coding expert, Netra is also an adept ukulele player (check out his Instagram) when he is not at his desk or playing cricket. It’s still early days to say whether the US can make it to the Super Eight, but they have now kept a foot on the door with an unexpected win over one of the group favourites.

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