Updated June 7th, 2024 at 18:33 IST

Nosthush Kenjige: From dwelling in Bengaluru PG to star performer against Pakistan in T20 WC

Back in 2013, Nosthush Kenjige shacked up in his PG room close to the CBD here, sulking. Then a 22-year-old, Kenjige was nowhere near fulfilling his dream of becoming a professional cricketer.

Nosthush Kenjige | Image:ICC
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Back in 2013, Nosthush Kenjige shacked up in his PG room close to the CBD here, sulking. Then a 22-year-old, Kenjige was nowhere near fulfilling his dream of becoming a professional cricketer.

A rigorous training at the Karnataka Institute of Cricket (KIOC) notwithstanding, Kenjige, one of the stars in USA’s stunning win over Pakistan in the ongoing T20 World Cup, was not even close to breaking into the state cricketing eco-system.

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Filled with disillusion, Kenjige, a US citizen by birth, returned to his mother nation armed with a degree in bio-technology from Dayanand Sagar College of Engineering.

His passion for cricket was not extinct but remained dormant as Kenjige explored a career in medical equipment inspection in New York.

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“It was a phase I was merely floating around without much aim. But a year so later, I joined Columbia Cricket Club in NY, and that sort of reignited my desire to pursue cricket,” said Kenjige, who was here on a personal visit a few months back.

Irfan Sait, his early coach at the KIOC, said Kenjige made a timely return to the USA.

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“He was talented for sure. He used to put in a lot of hard work at nets and played in the state league too. But as it happens here, thousands of cricketers want to break into the Karnataka state cricket team. Some will make it, some won’t and Nosh, unfortunately, could not make it but that was no reflection of his talent or work ethics.

“When he decided to go back to the USA, I thought it was a good move and thought he may get to play at a higher level there,” said Sait.

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It was not a wrong assumption either. Kenjige rose through the ranks quite quickly in the next few years, earning a central contract with the USA national team and signed up for MI New York in the Major League Cricket.

In fact, the left-arm spinner was quite impressive for his side taking six wickets from as many matches at an outstanding economy rate of 5.76. His wickets included some top batters like Martin Guptill.

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“The experience really helped me because it improved my confidence of standing up to bigger players and occasions,” said Kenjige.

But there was a stroke of luck for Kenjige as former West Indian player Dwayne Bravo took notice of him at the US Open T20 tournament, an annual cricket exhibition event in Florida where some top cricketers from around the world participate.

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Ali Khan, the USA teammate of Kenjige, too was picked by Bravo, who has an excellent eye for talent, during that tournament at the Cricketplex resort.

Sometimes minute moments can irrevocably change the course of someone’s career or life and Kenjige admitted this as his turning point.

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“I never thought that would change the whole course. It was a good spell but never thought that it would propel me into a bigger league.

“I had to do 800 hours of community service to be eligible to play for the USA, including teaching young cricketers, but all that effort was worth it when I made my national debut,” said Kenjige.

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The big day came in 2019 when Kenjige stepped on to the field against UAE, and since then he has played 40 ODIs and seven T20Is, including the one against Pakistan in New York on Thursday.

Kenjige grabbed the wickets of Usman Khan, Azam Khan and Shadab Khan to break Pakistan’s charge in the middle overs.

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The 33-year-old might have foreseen his glory day when he spoke about the need to exploit the chances.

“Coming from an Associate team, we don’t often get chances to play against big teams. So, we need to ensure to grab those chances with both hands once they come our way. It’s a tight situation but that’s the challenging part for players like us,” noted Kenjige, who was the USA’s highest wicket-taker in the ICC Qualifiers last year.

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One more challenge will come Kenjige’s way on June 12 when USA face India, the country of his parents Pradeep and Keerthi.

“During those years (in Karnataka), I was ready to move away from cricket. But destiny has taken me to a different route, but one that I always wanted to travel,” he signed off.

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Published June 7th, 2024 at 18:33 IST