Meet the first Parsi to represent India in over 50 yrs

Meet Arzan Nagwaswalla, the first Parsi to represent the Indian cricket team in over 50 years

It’s widely believed that Nagwaswalla was picked on account of being from Gujarat since Jay Shah has pushed for players from his backyard

Gujarat pacer Arzan Nagwaswalla. Credit: DH Photo

Players coming out of Gujarat have had it good over the last few years, and the ‘talented’ Arzan Nagwaswalla is the latest to benefit. And that he happens to be the first Parsi in close to 50 years to represent India is only fodder for the PR team.

The 23-year-old from a beach-town called Nargol in Valsad was named in India’s squad for the World Test Championship final against New Zealand and the five-Test series against England, becoming the first from the Parsi community since Farokh Engineer in 1975 to make the squad. Though Nagwaswalla is only on the list of stand-bys (net bowlers effectively), it caught many by surprise.

In fact, the left-arm paceman himself wasn’t too sure how his selection came about.

“I did not expect to get called up so early in my career,” Nagwaswalla tells DH. “I didn’t even get picked for the IPL so obviously I wasn’t expecting to be in the Indian squad. These days it’s rare for someone to not play the IPL and get picked for the Indian team.”

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It’s widely believed that Nagwaswalla was picked on account of being from Gujarat since Jay Shah — the current BCCI secretary and former Gujarat Cricket Association joint-secretary — has pushed for players from his backyard.

Of course, Nagwaswalla may have fuelled the rumour by revealing that Shah informed him of the selection before the squad was announced. That said, his numbers, albeit small in sample size, are actually impressive.

In 16 first-class games, he has picked up 62 wickets at an average and strike rate of 22.53 and 44.60 respectively since his debut in 2018. In 20 List-A games, he has 39 wickets, and in the latest edition of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, he had nine wickets from five games.

“He has fantastic numbers so whoever says he was picked for something else doesn’t know what’s actually happening in cricket,” a source in the BCCI revealed. “Also, we didn’t have (T) Natarajan and Chetan Sakariya since both are injured so Arzan was the obvious choice.

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“Besides doing well domestically, he has a great attitude and he brings a lot to the table as a bowler. He has been on our mind for the last three or four selection meetings so this time we knew we had to go in his direction.”

Nagwaswalla didn’t mind the rationale behind his selection, he was just happy that he was there. “I have been working a lot on my bowling but the last two years I have spent more time improving my mental state,” he explains. “I meditate on the beach every morning, focus on breathing and visualise things. I think that’s why I have done well and I am where I am right now.”

Aware of the shoes he has to fill, should the opportunity arise, Nagwaswalla said: “He (Natarajan) and I are very different bowlers. I will focus on my strengths. Whatever happens after is not in my control.”

Speaking of the Parsi heritage, Nagwaswalla plays it down. “It’s an honour but I never think about these things. Farokh sir apparently informed one of my coaches that he will meet me if I go to England… sorry when I go to England.”