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Chikkamagaluru boy’s dreams take wings in the US

Never back down

NEVER BACK DOWN: Left-arm spinner Nosthush Kenjige was part of the USA team that gained the ODI status recently. USA Cricket

Bowling in the streets of Chikkamagaluru, a young Nosthush Pradeep Kenjige dreamt of playing for the country. Only when he moved to Bengaluru, Karnataka’s cricket hub, did he realise the onerous nature of the task.      

The fierce competition in Karnataka reduced him to an also-ran. There is no dearth of stories of forgotten talents in sports. Kenjige didn’t want his journey to be on that list. He chose a different country -- United States of America -- to reignite his passion. 

Today, Kenjige is a happy man. On April 25, the 28-year-old was part of the USA team that gained one-day-international status. USA’s win over Hong Kong in an ICC World Cricket League Division II tournament confirmed the achievement. 

“It feels great,” Kenjige tells DH. “It’s a historic moment for us. But the job is half done. We need to work harder and keep taking the next step. I want to thank my family and well wishers for their constant support,” says Kenjige, a left-arm spinner, who played alongside some of Karnataka’s current star players like Manish Pandey and Mayank Agarwal while he trained in Bengaluru. 

Kenjige’s positive mindset has carried him through the tough times. “In Karnataka, I tried hard to make a mark in age group cricket. I represented a couple of clubs but I couldn’t make the State team,” he recollects.

Cricket still holding a big place in his heart, Kenjige moved to the US, albeit to pursue his masters in biomedical instructions. 

A window of opportunity opened when the USA were looking for players for a preparation camp for Divison Four League. “I worked as biomedical technician in New York and there was a selection trial in the city. I managed to impress them.”

The real test for Kenjige was after the selection. “Unlike in India, where a national cricketer just focuses on his game, here in the US we are juggling our work-life with cricket. Once I was picked for the camp, I had to complete 100 days of community service to become an eligible player. This involved coaching players, playing matches and taking up different kinds of activities. During this period, my coach Pubudu Dassanayake and the management of United States of America’s Cricket Association (USACA) offered me great support,” he says. 

Kenjige repaid his coach’s faith by being one of the team’s strike bowler. “He is just 28 so he has a lot of time to achieve more. Ever since I saw him three years ago, he has been one of to my go-to-bowler,” says Dassanayake. 

Karnataka cricket is still a part of Kenjige’s life. “I have played alongside the current Ranji and India stars like (R) Samarth, CM Gautam, Mayank Agarwal and Manish Pandey. I trained at the Karnataka Institute of Cricket and played matches with them. I follow Ranji Trophy and even the Karnataka Premier League every season,” he says. 

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