A cricket bat and a ball were all Rachin Ravindra needed when he visited relatives in Bengaluru, India.
Talking to each other was difficult – Ravindra grew up in New Zealand, spoke English and didn’t understand what his extended family was saying.
That’s how they talked about cricket. Ravindra’s uncles would bowl for him all day, and he would play with his cousins in hallways and cramped backyards.
Years later, when a 22 year old Ravindra got out at Kanpur’s Green Park Stadium Before his debut test match with the Black Caps, there were times when the all-rounder slipped into a familiar spot despite the crowds and pressures.
“I felt like I was a kid in India,” he says, “It never clicked in me thinking ‘damn, I’m playing the Indian test team’.”
Ravindra was born and raised in New Zealand after his parents moved to Wellington from Bengaluru in the 1990s. He says that while growing up “quite a Kiwi kid,” his parents maintained close ties with family back home.
Whether he was in India or New Zealand, cricket was a constant for him. His family loved cricket, and he started playing the game as a child.
When Ravindra was older he would travel to India not just for family but for cricket tours under the banner of Hutt Hawks, a club his father arranges.
The Hutt Hawks, founded in 2010, is a touring club based in the Hutt Valley. Cricketers from clubs across the Wellington area team up under the Hutt Hawks banner and travel to India every year to play cricket for two or three weeks.
“It’s about trying to get kids and adults, really a range of ages, known to experience India [and] his cricketing conditions,” says Ravindra.
For the past decade, these tours have been a staple in his cricket calendar, although they are currently on hiatus due to Covid.
“It’s a great development aid for a lot of cricketers in Wellington and a lot of guys who play for Wellington now have gone through that system.”
Ravindra’s first trip with the Hutt Hawks was when he was about 10 or 11 to Bengaluru. Later, as part of the team, he traveled to Anantapur district, in southern India, where they would contact a non-profit organization called the Rural Development Confidence (RDT).
“[RDT] does an incredible job for India in that region. They are a charitable organization that has done so much for Anantapur district.”
Part of RDT’s work includes running sports programs and initiatives for the development of young athletes. The organization manages sports venues – including cricket grounds – for training purposes and the Hutt Hawks have traveled frequently to play against local teams at these venues.
The trips have been invaluable to cricketers like Ravindra eager to learn how to play in the Indian climate – and against the spin of Indian players on the ball – something Ravindra says is taught differently than in New Zealand, making it a challenge to to cope.
The lessons he learned from those trips were intertwined with his training in New Zealand, where he was soon noticed as an emerging cricketing talent.
He has represented New Zealand at the Under-19 World Cups twice, first in 2016 and 2018, and signed with Wellington in the 2018-2019 season. His game caught the attention of the highest levels and he was called up to play for the Black Caps at age 21 and made his debut at age 22.
“Playing for the Black Caps was always the dream.”
His debut came in September 2021, when the Black Caps faced India in a two-match test series.
The day before the first test, Ravindra was capped off in an experience he said was “incredibly special.” Former cricketer and assistant coach Jimmy Pamment spoke to the team about his life and experiences and gave the caps to the players. Ravindra’s cap was embroidered with his playing number – 282 – and he describes the moment as “being put on a pedestal” for the team, emphasizing what it means to play for New Zealand.
On the field for that first test in India, the Black Caps faced an uphill battle – when Ravindra came hitting next to Ajaz Patel, the pair batted 90 minutes, held back India’s world-class spinners and ended the test match in a draw.
That’s when Ravindra says he got the feeling of playing cricket as a kid in India.
“I barely noticed the crowd. I barely noticed anything. It wasn’t until the last when I wasn’t on strike and I thought ‘I’m probably not going to face the ball here, the game isn’t in my hands'”
“I just looked all around the stadium, crowd cheering, went crazy. It was definitely a moment to remember and overall, a pinch yourself kind of thing for a debut.”
His composure and demeanor were praised by coach Gary Stead, who said:[It’s] prove to himself that he belongs at this level.”
His second ever test was also one to remember – against India in Mumbai, he was the one to finish the 10 . sealede wicket, catching a skier from Mohammed Siraj.
“Ajaz bowled incredibly well, and he deserved every wicket of those 10. Being part of that history was cool,” says Ravindra. “He’s just an incredible player and an even better guy, so it was pretty cool to be able to share that with him.”
On his return to New Zealand after the second Test, Ravindra then took the field when the Black Caps faced Bangladesh in January 2022.
Banner image: Rachin Ravindra in the Black Caps 2021 tour of India. Image courtesy of NZ Cricket.
– Asia Media Center