Chikkamagaluru's Nosthush spins a success story in the land of baseball

Nosthush Kenjige
Nosthush Kenjige in action against Pakistan in the T20 World Cup. File photo: AFP/Andrew Caballero-Reynolds

Nosthush Kenjige once rubbed shoulders with the likes of cricket legend Rahul Dravid and future national players Mayank Agarwal and Manish Pandey at the club-level in Bengaluru. At one juncture of his life, he had to make a tough decision: whether to pursue a career in cricket or choose a safer path forward. Eventually, in 2015, the left-arm spinner migrated to the US in pursuit of better prospects as a biomedical engineer. 

Although cricket at that time was more or less in its infancy in the US, Nosthush did not give up his love for the sport. Proving that staying true to one's passion will pay off in the end, the 33-year-old played a key role in the US' stunning win over heavyweights Pakistan in a group match of the ongoing T20 World Cup with figures of 3/30 from his four overs.

The move to the US was a sort of homecoming for the boy from Chikkamagaluru. "I was born in Alabama in 1991 before my parents (Pradeep Kenjige and Shrutha Keerthi) returned to Chikkamagaluru after dad finished his studies. I played my early cricket during my school days at The Lawrence School, Lovedale, in Ooty. Thereafter, I shifted to Bengaluru and played club cricket before moving to the States," Nosthush told Onmanorama over the phone from Florida ahead of the US' final group match against Ireland.

It was not an easy journey for Nosthush to make a mark in his new homeland. "I attended a selection trial and Ricardo Powell (former West Indian batter) picked me. However, I had to do community service to become eligible to play for the national team. It was tough to combine both cricket and work."

Nosthush made his international debut in 2017 against Uganda in an ICC World Cricket League Division Three game. "Our coach Pubudu Dassanayake (former Sri Lankan wicketkeeper) guided me a lot in my early days in international cricket." 

Nosthush Kenjige
Nosthush Kenjige celebrates the wicket of Pakistan's Shadab Khan in the T20 World Cup. File photo: AFP/Andrew Caballero-Reynolds

The turning point in Nosthush's cricketing career was the US gaining One-Day International (ODI) status in 2019. "That was a big breakthrough. I made my ODI debut in 2019. USA cricket offered the players full-time contracts and it's been fully cricket for me since 2019. Right now only Saurabh Netravalkar is working and playing among national team members."

Nosthush is not surprised by the co-hosts' spirited show in the T20 World Cup. "We had a really good preparation coming into the World Cup. The (T20I) series win over Bangladesh too was significant."

Nosthush has no doubt exciting days are ahead for the US cricket team. "Hopefully we can qualify for the Super Eight of the World Cup. We want to qualify for the next T20 World Cup to be held in India and Sri Lanka in 2026. Cricket has been included in the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028. Things are looking up for sure."

Nosthush Kenjige and wife with Dravid
Nosthush Kenjige and wife Nivica with Rahul Dravid. Photo: Special Arrangement

Nosthush, though, laments the absence of first-class cricket structure in the US. "No doubt it's a hindrance, but the good thing is that most of the national team members have some experience of playing first-class cricket unlike the home-grown players. The US team used to compete in the domestic tournament in the West Indies from 2018-20 before the COVID-19 outbreak. It was tough to keep going during the time of the pandemic and the contract amount too was split. Thankfully, things have got back to normal now."

Nosthush is quick to acknowledge the role of his family in his growth both as a cricketer and as an individual. "My family has been a constant source of inspiration for me. Dad always used to encourage me to play cricket. But he also made sure I was good in studies. My parents flew in to watch us play against Pakistan and India in the World Cup. They were there along with my wife (Nivica) when we beat Pakistan and it was special."

Nosthush Kenjige family
Nosthush Kenjige celebrates with his wife, left, parents, second and third left, uncle and aunt after the win over Pakistan. Photo: Special Arrangement

Nosthush believes the ever-aggressive approach of the batters in T20 cricket presents a spinner with plenty of opportunities to pick up wickets. "Just like a coin has two sides, T20 cricket offers spinners equal chances. It all depends on the match situation and you have to do a balancing act. There are times when you have to contain the batters and at times you have to be on the attack. I listen a lot to R Ashwin (veteran Indian spinner) and have learned a lot about match situations from him."

However, current India coach Dravid remains his role model. "I have played against him in Bengaluru when he was India captain. Despite all his achievements he's so humble and generous. It was a pleasure to meet him the other day. The way he conducts himself is exemplary," added Nosthush.

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