Tanveer Sangha’s recent ODI call-up understandably raised eyebrows.
The 21-year-old leg-spinner hadn’t played professional cricket for nearly twelve months when he was named in Australia’s provisional World Cup squad, having spent the entire 2022/23 summer in the casualty ward.
Mitchell Swepson and Matt Kuhnemann both represented Australia in white-ball cricket last year, yet the uncapped Sangha, with only five List A appearances to his name, has leapfrogged them in the pecking order.
However, Sangha’s selection wasn’t completely out of the blue. He’s been on the radar for several years, with teammates and opponents singing his praises since he burst onto the scene in 2020.
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“He’s got me out a couple of times with that cheeky little smile, which is always hard to take,” stand-in Australian captain Mitchell Marsh told reporters this week.
“I’ve heard he’s a very quick learner and just bowls and bowls and bowls.”
Sangha’s stock ball is flatter and faster than the traditional leg-spinner, relentlessly targeting the stumps and suffocating batters at the crease. His greatest asset is his consistency, which makes him a reliable attacking option through the middle overs of 50-over cricket.
If he gets an opportunity in South Africa, where Australia’s white-ball squads touched down this week, he’ll become just the second Indian-origin men’s cricketer to represent the country along with Gurinder Sandhu.
FROM YOUTUBE TUTORIALS TO THE BIG BASH
Born and raised in Sydney’s southwest, Sangha was a natural athlete during his youth, excelling in several sports including rugby league, kabaddi and football. However, his parents, both Indian immigrants, surprisingly didn’t want him to pursue cricket.
“I wanted him to play volleyball,” Sangha’s father, who hails from Punjab and migrated to Australia on a student visa in 1997, told The Indian Express this month.
“But cricket won the race.”
After realising he didn’t possess the required height or speed to become Australia’s next great pace bowler, Sangha turned his attention to leg-spin in his early teens, learning the craft from video tutorials on YouTube. A few years later, he was representing Australia at Under-16 level.
Sangha cemented his status as a future superstar at the Under-19 Cricket World Cup in 2020, ending the tournament as Australia’s leading wicket-taker with 15 scalps at 11.46, including a five-wicket haul against Nigeria.
He made his Big Bash League debut for the Sydney Thunder later that year, finishing his maiden campaign with 21 wickets at 16.66, the highest tally for any spin bowler in the competition.
In January 2021, having just celebrated his 19th birthday, Sangha was selected for Australia’s T20 tour of New Zealand, also named as a back-up player for white-ball tours to the West Indies and Bangladesh. However, the experienced duo of Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar kept him on the sidelines.
Sangha’s impressive form continued into the 2021/22 home summer – he snared 3-44 on Sheffield Shield debut for New South Wales before taking 4-21 during his maiden one-day domestic appearance.
He claimed an additional 16 wickets in the Big Bash, catching the attention of West Indies legend Andre Russell at Sydney Showground in December 2021.
“After the game I said to him, ‘Listen, you have a big heart, and I like spinners who are not afraid to bowl to big-hitters’,” Russell said at the time.
“He was bowling into my body and mixing his pace up as well … he has a bright future.”
Tanveer Sangha stars in Marsh Cup debut | 01:13
Last year, Sangha travelled to the subcontinent for an Australia A tour of Sri Lanka, taking 4-56 in the fourth innings of a tense 68-run victory over the hosts in Hambantota.
A couple of months later, Cricket Australia sent Sangha and a group of emerging spinners, including Todd Murphy and Kuhnemann, to Chennai‘s MRF Academy to refine their craft in India’s unique conditions. Sangha bowled countless overs throughout the ten-day camp, which was designed to prepare Australia’s next generation of cricketers for future subcontinent tours.
“He’s just cricket-obsessed,” Murphy told Fox Cricket this week.
“He’s really, really skilful, so I think he’s going to have a great career.
“He’s bloody good.”
Murphy, who claimed a seven-wicket haul on Test debut in Nagpur earlier this year, beamed at the prospect of one day bowling alongside Sangha in India, whether that be during the 2027 Border-Gavaskar Trophy or beyond.
“I would love that, it would be awesome,” Murphy said.
“We played a lot of cricket growing up, and we’ve always said we love playing together.
“We’re quite different, we would actually compliment each other really well. He’s really attacking, where I can be more defensive, so I feel like we work together really well.”
SANGHA’S DEVASTATING SETBACK
Sangha’s whirlwind rise came to a crushing halt in September last year — a few days before the start of his domestic campaign with NSW, scans revealed he had sustained a stress fracture in his back during a warm-up match for the Blues.
He missed the entire season, with Kuhnemann and Murphy flourishing at international level in his absence.
“I‘m very devastated,” Sangha told cricket.com.au last summer.
“I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than two weeks away from bowling for the last eight years.”
After recovering from the setback, Sangha joined the Washington Freedom for the inaugural Major League Cricket tournament as a last-minute replacement for Sri Lankan spinner Wanindu Hasaranga, but didn’t crack into the starting XI.
He then flew to the United Kingdom in July, joining the Birmingham Phoenix ahead of The Hundred competition and taking 2-23 in his long-awaited return to professional cricket.
Sangha’s next stop is South Africa, where hopefully higher honours await.
“He’s been on our radar for a long time,” chief of selectors George Bailey told reporters earlier this month.
“His Big Bash form, when he’s been fit and playing, has been excellent, so he’s one that we’re very impressed with.
“The common comment around Tanveer is that he’s very mature on the field and a great thinker about how he goes about it.
“He had an unfortunate injury last year, which meant he lost a bit of game time, but the age he is and the skill set he has, I don’t think that’s going to set him back that much.”
Australia will cut its initial World Cup squad down to 15 players next month, and it would take something special for Sangha to edge out Zampa or Agar in the finalised touring party.
However, with India’s dry tracks expected to play a significant role towards the back-end of the tournament, picking three strike spinners isn’t out of the equation for Australia.
Mitch Marsh proud to be Aussie captain | 02:10
Australia’s white-ball tour of South Africa
August 30 – First T20I, Durban
September 1 – Second T20I, Durban
September 3 – Third T20I, Durban
September 7 – First ODI, Bloemfontein
September 9 – Second ODI, Bloemfontein
September 12 – Third ODI, Potchefstroom
September 15 – Fourth ODI, Centurion
Australian ODI squad for South Africa squad
Australia’s T20 squad for South Africa tour