Rapid rise for mystery spinner Bajwa
Age is irrelevant when it comes to the crunch according to spinner Harkirat Bajwa, the youngest player in Australia’s upcoming Under-19 World Cup campaign
29 December 2021, 10:43 AM AEST
(Main photo credit: Brody Gogan // CA)
Mystery spinner Harkirat Bajwa may be the sole bottom-age player in Australia's Under-19 World Cup squad, but believes age will mean little when battling the best in the West Indies.
The 17-year-old is Australia’s youngest player in the tournament kicking off on January 14, and enters it without the experience of several teammates having played his inaugural first grade match just this month.
However he's taking everything in his stride as he prepares to represent his nation.
"It's always pretty special to be the bottom-ager; you're trying to keep up with all those older blokes in your team," Bajwa said.
"At the end of the day, when you step onto the park … the other team is trying to hit you out of the ground, it doesn't matter if you're young or old."
It has been a rapid rise to national honours for Bajwa.
Reflecting on his cricketing journey just days before heading to the Caribbean, the youngster recalled his path to underage state selection just a couple of years ago.
Having caught the eye of an U15 Victorian coach he was encouraged to try out for the side and, after a few impressive performances, was shortly into the state squad.
While his place in his state's side may have come as a surprise, the outcome from his performance at those National Championships in 2020 would be an even bigger shock.
Despite not being overly satisfied with the way he played, Bajwa would earn his place in the Australian U16 squad, selected as one of the standout players from the tournament.
"That was my first Vic team and I didn’t bowl that well in the tournament, that's what I felt," Bajwa said.
"When they were reading the teams out for the Australia U16 team, I was sitting there thinking I'm probably not going to be picked here … and then my name got read out first and I was just like ‘is it really me?’
"That was a pretty quick rise."
Clearly catching the eye of selectors, the Victorian has gained plenty of confidence in his own ability from these experiences.
While the pandemic has brought representative carnivals to a halt in recent times, Bajwa has been working hard in Premier Cricket with Melbourne Cricket Club.
Debuting in the top grade this season, the off-spinner said it was a nervous experience as he worked his way up the grades.
However he felt increasingly confident he could succeed against more accomplished batters.
"I started in the twos and took a few wickets, so was moved up to the ones," he said.
"We were playing St Kilda who are possibly one of the best teams in the competition, and St Kilda and Melbourne have a pretty big rivalry.
"A few of the state players were playing from St Kilda like Todd Murphy and Patrick Rowe … so it's always nice to challenge yourself up against the best."
Describing himself as a "wicket-taker" who likes to attack with the ball, Bajwa will play a huge role for the Australians in the spin friendly conditions of the West Indies, something the teenager said was a little bit daunting despite it favouring his skillset.
"There's a little bit of pressure (at the World Cup) because people expect you to do well in turning conditions," he said.
"I really express myself with the ball and bowl some different balls, different variations.
"I really challenge myself to bowl wicket-taking balls on a regular basis, rather than just being defensive.
"(I've) just got to adapt to the situation of the game and bowl to the situation."
The full 15-player squad will come together in Melbourne on December 28, before travelling to the Windies in the New Year.
While having played all his cricket in Australia, Bajwa is no stranger to spending time outside of the country, having lived in India for a considerable part of his childhood.
"We moved to Australia in 2012 when I was seven years old," Bajwa said.
"I probably didn’t even like cricket at that point in time; you would think coming from India I would get the passion from there.
"But I didn’t really like cricket, I just came here and joined in the community and started playing a bit of club cricket and fell in love with the sport here."
That love for the game that developed in Australia has already led him to national representation.
While still a boy in many ways, Bajwa will be crucial to Australia's World Cup campaign, as they look to spin their way to a first title since 2010.