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From Ludhiana to BBL, Nikhil charts unique journey | Cricket

Cricketer Nikhil Chaudhary is living a dream. The 27-year-old all-rounder from Ludhiana, Punjab, is currently representing Hobart Hurricanes in the ongoing Australian T20 Big Bash League (BBL), becoming only the second Indian to do so after Unmukt Chand two years ago.

Nikhil Chaudhary

Chaudhary also met his childhood hero Brett Lee during the former Australian pacer’s commentary stint in the league and was over the moon. “I started as a fast bowler when I started playing cricket and copied Lee’s action. I wanted to become an accomplished quickie like him. However, it did not last long and I eventually became leggie. I am enjoying playing in the BBL after toiling hard in Australia for three-and-a-half years. Me and Lee chatted during an interaction in Hindi as well,” said Chaudhary, who cracked a 30-ball 40 against Perth Scorchers on debut.

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His power-hitting abilities are coming to the fore in the league. “I did not know I was getting a chance to play against Perth Scorchers. At the last moment, Mattew Wade got injured and I was his replacement in the playing XI,” remembered Chaudhary, who worked as a delivery boy for Australia Post for two years before he signed up for Hobart Hurricanes.

Chaudhary came into the spotlight after he clobbered Pakistan pacer Haris Rauf for a six over cover point en route his 32 off just 16 balls against Melbourne Stars. He has also been among wickets thanks to his handy leg spin.

Chaudhary was born in Delhi but his family moved to Ludhiana when he was two years old. His cricket journey started under the tutelage of coach Charanjit Banghu who trained him to become an all-rounder.

Having played for Punjab U-16s and U-19s, Chaudhary earned a reputation as an all-rounder and went on to make his List-A (Vijay Hazare Trophy) and T20 (Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy) debut in 2017 under Harbhajan Singh’s captaincy. “I was doing well for Punjab at that age and was aiming for a Ranji Trophy debut. But destiny had planned something else for me,” added Chaudhary, who moved to Brisbane for a holiday in March 2020 with his uncle.

However, as travelling restrictions came into force due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Chaudhary ended up spending more time in Australia than planned. “When I realised I could not travel back to Ludhiana for some months I was confused. But then cricket being my first love I started playing at the local level. Impressed by my skills, I got selected for Southern Suburbs Brisbane and that is when my real cricket journey started in Australia,” said Chaudhary, who was a replacement player for Brisbane Heat for two seasons but had not got a chance to play in the BBL.

It was Southern Suburbs coach and former Australian pacer James Hopes who recommended Chaudhary’s name for Hobart Hurricanes for the ongoing BBL. “James thought I should be part of the BBL this season as I had a good domestic season. And I got the contract,” added Chaudhary. Hopes is the Hurricanes’ bowling coach in the league.

Chaudhary tried to be part of the Indian Premier League (IPL) by appearing for Mumbai Indians (MI) trials twice but could not crack it. His friends from Punjab cricket, such as Arshdeep Singh, Harpreet Brar, Siddharth Kaul, and Nehal Wadhera, all are part of the IPL and Chaudhary enjoys speaking to them about the Indian domestic league.

“Right now, my focus is on the BBL and winning matches for my team. We need as many as four wins to qualify for the next stage. And if I ever get any chance to be part of the other leagues, it would be great,” said Chaudhary, who is also friends with Australian cricketers of Indian origin like Gurinder Sandhu and Tanveer Sangha who are playing the BBL too.

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