After nearly half a century, a Parsi cricketer is all set to board an Indian team flight. At least as a standby. Not since Farokh Engineer last played for India in 1975 has there been a Parsi man as part of the national set-up before Gujarat’s left-arm medium pacer Arzan Nagwaswalla found his name among the reserves for the World Test championship final against New Zealand and five-Test series against England. He picked 41 wickets in eight games at 18.36 during the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy season. YouTube has visual evidence of his skills: booming inswingers to right-handed batsmen, stump-crashing yorkers, and throat-threatening bouncers.
There is a bit of Zaheer Khan in the way Nagwaswalla loads up and it comes as no surprise that Khan was his idol. Nagwaswalla met the former India pacer one day in the Mumbai Indians net.
“He (Zaheer) came and said that I bowl like him. This tour will be a great learning experience for me and I’m looking forward to it,” he told The Indian Express.
The 23-year-old left-arm pacer is the youngest member of the Parsi community in the village of Nergal, situated a few kilometres from the border town of Umbergaon in Gujarat. In fact, he’s the only one of his generation who’s stayed back. The rest, he reveals, left for the greener pastures of Mumbai a long time ago. But his family never wanted to migrate to a big city. The decision to stay put paid dividends as he rose rapidly through the junior ranks in Gujarat.
In the here and now, Nagwaswalla is happy and proud of coming through from the Parsi community. “It will be a proud moment for our community, for sure. Since the time I started playing cricket, I always wanted to be a cricketer. I know what my community’s legacy has been. I will try to carry the same ahead,” he says.
His Gujarat team-mate Priyank Panchal details out Nagwaswalla’s key attributes.
“The best part is that he can swing the ball both ways. At the same time, he clocks 135-plus on a consistent basis. He is the one of the few bowlers on the domestic circuit with a deadly bouncer. Fast bowlers bowl short by pitching around the halfway mark, but Arzan can get bounce by pitching between halfway and the good-length area. The way he bowled in Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy and Vijay Hazare Trophy, I thought someone will pick him for the Indian Premier League but he went just as a net bowler for Mumbai Indians. The good thing is that now Arzan will grow from here. Initially, he had pace but didn’t have control over line. Even a stint as a net bowler with the Indian team will boost his confidence. He will come back a better bowler after the tour,” Panchal told this newspaper.
The left-arm medium pacer picked up the sport at an early age from his elder brother Vispi. The pacer was returning from Mumbai where he was part of the Mumbai Indians team as a net bowler when he got a call from the selector.
“I had received a call this morning that I will be picked, it was the best day of my life. I will be going home after two months of IPL, I never thought that I will be with the Indian team,” Nagwaswalla said.