Lockdown diaries: What's keeping USA's Indian players going?

Indian-origin cricketers Saurabh Netravalkar, Ibrahim Khaleel and Nosthush Kenjige share their coronavirus lockdown diaries in the USA.

Saurabh Netravalkar at the Sachin Tendulkar Gymkhana, during his visit to Mumbai in January.   -  Shayan Acharya

A few years ago, when Saurabh Netravalkar and Ibrahim Khaleel shifted base to the USA, the fast-paced life amazed them. By then, both the cricketers had featured in Ranji Trophy for their respective teams — Mumbai and Hyderabad — but America was a new experience altogether.

Cut to April 2020 — with the USA becoming the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic — their lives have come to a standstill. The death toll surpassed the 9,000-mark on Monday.

Netravalkar, who is the captain of the USA team, has been training at his home in San Fransisco. Khaleel is keeping himself busy with fitness exercises at his home in Chicago.

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“We are just following the instructions of our country administration. They have asked us to stay home as much as possible. We have been asked to step out for only essential stuff. It’s pretty much on the same lines as India,” Netravalkar told Sportstar late on Sunday.

To ensure that the players don’t skip the fitness regime, the USA team trainer has sent out guidelines. “We are doing home-training programme with body weights and all other stuff. We are in touch with each other and praying that things get better,” he said.

 

A software developer with IT giant, Oracle, Netravalkar has been working from home for the past few weeks. But he is worried for his parents who are in Kandivali in Mumbai, a COVID-19 hotspot in India, with 406 cases and counting. He is in touch with them via video calls.

San Francisco has recorded 529 positive cases with eight deaths so far.

On the other hand, Chicago, where Khaleel lives, has 4,860 cases and 85-plus fatalities.

Khaleel is keeping himself busy with fitness exercises at his home in Chicago.   -  Special Arrangement

 

“Every city is affected and if people step out, it could still spread. So, it is important to take the necessary precaution,” said Khaleel, a former wicketkeeper-batsman of the Hyderabad Ranji Trophy team.

“We can’t bat and all, but I am working on my drills in the garage. There is only so much that you can do. Even if I want to run, I can’t step outside,” he said.

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Nosthush Kenjige — who made his USA debut in 2017 —  originally hails from Bengaluru. Now he is based in Dallas where 18 people have died. The number of positive cases stand at 1,112 at the moment.

"It takes a lot mentally. You don’t want to go out. Whoever you see are wearing masks,” he said, adding that he supports the 21-day lockdown in India. “Had there not been a lockdown, things would have been far worse.”

Indo-Pak camaraderie

Ali Khan, the Pakistan-origin fast bowler based in Ohio, is in touch with his Indian team-mates; tense for their family and friends around Karachi, Lahore, Chandigarh and the northern belt.

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Ohio is the worst-hit among the three cities with 119-plus deaths and 4,000-plus cases. “All restaurants are shut. And even in grocery stores, people are standing six feet apart. So I am cooking at home. Overall in America, it is severe at the moment and we hear that the numbers are likely to go up in the next couple of weeks,” he said.

India and Pakistan may have political tension but for these cricketers, friendship and brotherhood is top priority at present as all of them are chasing their cricketing dreams in the USA.

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