Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Cricket: Rookie spinner has game in his blood

Ish Sodhi is an exciting leg spinner for the Black Caps who tries to emulate his childhood hero - Anil Kumble. Photo / Getty Images
Ish Sodhi is an exciting leg spinner for the Black Caps who tries to emulate his childhood hero - Anil Kumble. Photo / Getty Images

New Zealand cricket's history of leg-spin bowling is close enough to a big fat zero. So step up Ish Sodhi, the Northern Districts' 21-year-old, who might start putting serious numbers on the board. The tall rookie looks the best leggie prospect since, well maybe ever. Chris Rattue talks to Sodhi in Hamilton where New Zealand are playing the West Indies on his home track.

What is your family background, and where were you brought up?

I was born in India, in the city of Ludhiana in the Punjab. My family moved to New Zealand in 1996, when I was four. My old man is a qualified doctor who works in psychology, in mental health, here and my old lady is a kindergarten teacher. I think my mum and dad wanted a fresh start in life. My older sister and I were brought up in Papatoetoe. Now I live in the east of Auckland, in Dannemora.

Were there cultural challenges?

I was young so I could have adapted to anything. But Papatoetoe is a multicultural society and I found it easy to fit in and make friends. It is a really good place where you don't have to be bound to one way of doing things. It is very colourful, refreshing, where I learnt about a lot of cultures. I got a lot of perspectives on New Zealand life.

You started cricket ...

When my old lady signed me up at a club when I was eight or nine. It took me a couple of years to get into it but I guess the game is in my blood as an Indian.

How did a good Auckland boy end up playing for Northern Districts?

Bruce Martin and Bhupinder Singh were ahead of me at Auckland.

Daniel Vettori played a part ...

He was preparing for a South African test series and needed a leg spinner in the nets. I bowled to him for hours at Eden Park, Colin Maiden, Parnell, wherever we could go. We built up a good relationship and he was instrumental in helping me understand it might be a good move. It was so good having the backing of someone you had looked up to since a kid.

Did you have a childhood hero?

I had a few but especially (Indian legspinner) Anil Kumble - they said he couldn't turn the ball much but if someone gets 619 test wickets and doesn't turn the ball, he must be a class above. Kumble never backed off from the fight. I saw him bowl with a broken jaw and a broken thumb.

Who is the toughest batsman you've bowled to?

A guy called Barrington Rowland who plays club cricket. He played first-class cricket in India with Anil Kumble so he has faced one of the great leg spinners a lot in the nets. Barrington has become a real good mate of mine and gives me good feedback ... we had this amazing battle for a whole day once before I got him out for 94.

Who is the scariest bowler you've faced?

I was 15 years old, making my premier cricket debut batting at number 11, it was 6.30 at night, and (former New Zealand quick bowler) Kerry Walmsley had just bowled a beamer to the batsman before me. This was my first ever ball faced in premier cricket, he's six foot eight, and the ball is coming out of the dark. He bounced me, hit my throat - I've never been so scared in my life. He bowled me next ball.

Mean guy ... moving on, we can't talk leg spin without mentioning Shane Warne - what an amazing bowler, and he wasn't scared of using smoke and mirrors ...

Paul Wiseman (national spin-bowling coach) says Warnie created a facade. If he bowled a bad ball, he made it seem on purpose to set you up for the next one. That's the place you want to get to as a spin bowler. I'm off to Melbourne soon to spend a day with him. I'll be so tempted to ask too many questions - I'll have to write down the key things.

New Zealand isn't exactly a spin-bowling paradise ...

Wickets don't spin here as much so you are expected to contribute to victories more often, whereas in spin-friendly places you are expected to bowl teams out. As Warnie says, you have to adapt to every wicket you play on. Some spin better with overspin, some with sidespin - you have to find those things out.

From left field - our spies tell us you are a part time rap artist ...

Where on earth did you get that from? It was something I did at school with a few friends. Growing up in Papatoetoe you listen to a lot of hip hop and it's something you do for a laugh with the lads. Those times have passed.

So it's definitely a thing of the past? Moving on ... are you superstitious?

All cricketers like their routines I think and it's a fine line between that and superstitions. I have the same breakfast every morning of a game - three Weetbix with trim milk and honey plus a couple of poached eggs on toast.

Outside interests?

You need ways to use the down time. I find that a lot in fishing. I love to go up north to Doubtless Bay where my mate has a bach or I'll go to somewhere like Okahu Bay and fish off a wharf for a couple of hours.

If you weren't a cricketer ...

I'd struggle to answer that. I want to stay in this game as long as possible. Something in psychology one day.

How would you describe your personality?

As a cricketer, all I want to do is contribute to my side winning. I play with a bit of emotion which works against me - the game means a lot to me but I have to learn how to balance those emotions out. I want to excel ... I don't want to play a couple of games for New Zealand and stop learning there.

- NZ Herald

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