Ninan reinvents himself

Off-spinner eyes Big Bash in second coming

Ninan reinvents himself

Ryan Ninan, an off-spinner, was one of the brightest cricketers coming up from the stables of Karnataka in early 2000s. He represented the State in all age-group tournaments with distinction and left a lasting impression on Greg Chappell who also mentored young Indian talent at the National Cricket Academy when he was India’s coach between 2005 and 2007.

Ryan’s career, however, never reached the exalted heights that it once promised due to lack of opportunities. While it is pointless now to recall reasons for the snub he received, Ryan has found his calling in Australia after all but giving up the game.

Ryan never got an opportunity to play first-class cricket for Karnataka despite the obvious talent. He spent full seasons warming benches even as his contemporaries from across India went on to play for different India sides. He eventually moved to Goa in 2008 and played four Ranji matches with moderate success with the ball (10 wickets at an average of 34.90).

Ryan moved back to Karnataka the next season and played no more than six List ‘A’ games. There was nothing before and after that for him. With cricket taking him nowhere, he enrolled himself in Deakin University in Melbourne for an MBA in sports management in 2014. Little did he know that this move would reconnect him with the game he thought he had left back in India.

“God acts in strange ways,” Ryan, on a brief visit to India, tells DH. “When I was desperately waiting for an opportunity to play first-class cricket, I got few of them and now when all I wanted was a degree, I am getting my chances,” he laughs.

Ryan’s second innings with the game began with Kingston Hawthorn in Victoria’s First Grade Competition and there he came to know he could play in Big Bash League if he can get Permanent Resident Visa. But for that he would have had to wait until he completed his degree. So he had no choice but to return to Australia on work visa.

Playing two BBL warm-up games for Victorian Premier All Stars against Melbourne Renegades and Melbourne Stars ahead of the 2015-16 edition was the turning point for Ryan. He proudly recalls dismissing Peter Handscomb with a doosra and getting David Hussey stumped; and along with his good performances as Kingston Hawthorn’s captain, he came into prominence. Just when things were looking up, his visa expired and he had to return home. Bitten by the bug again, Ryan went to England and then to the Netherlands to play cricket but his heart was in Australia.

“It’s such an outdoor country,” he says. “Sport is part of the culture there. They are busy with one or the other activity -- running, skating, cycling… It’s infectious. Going to Australia was the best thing to have happened to me. It helped me rediscover my love and passion for the game. It’s still too early and may sound a bit far-fetched but what I dreamed in India may just come true in Australia,” he hopes.

Letters of recommendation from Cricket Australia, Cricket Victoria and Chappell helped Ryan get the Permanent Resident Visa this July, giving a fillip to his renewed ambitions.

The 31-year-old says he isn’t bitter with what happened in the past. “I was never bitter,” he insists. “Things weren’t just meant to happen then. I guess you have to be at the right place at the right time. I am not saying I was never hurt. When everyone around you tells you how talented you are and still you don’t get chances, it’s hard to deal with. It’s tougher when you are young. You become desperate and do things or think things that only make life more difficult for you. Today, I am not desperate. If I can play in BBL and then possibly first-class cricket in Australia that will be great but I am not losing my sleep over as to when it will come. I am just enjoying my cricket, again,” he signs off.

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