Player Profile - Ashwani Arora
Over the next few weeks, leading up to the 2020 Over-50s World Cup, we’ll be featuring the key new players (that is, those who did not participate in the 2018 World Cup) in each of the 12 sides.
These aren’t necessarily the most famous players, but they are cricketers who I’m picking to play a decisive role for their side.
This week’s profile is Indian mystery spinner Ashwani Arora.
The India Over-50s Cricket side is a largely unknown quantity. They have never played an O50I, and only two or three of its squad have played first-class cricket, although a couple do play in the English Over-50s league.
One of their key players will be Arora, a Bangalore native who splits his time between India and England.
He is a left-arm Chinaman bowler and right-handed middle-order batsman. He describes his style as “unorthodox, deceptive, and foxy spin bowling”.
Of the opportunity to participate in the World Cup, Arora said: “Playing for India, playing for your own country ... it doesn’t get bigger, and I’m really, really looking forward to it.”
Arora quit his corporate job four years ago to pursue his passion for cricket. Since then he has travelled to England every year where he lives between April to September and plays over 60 games a season. He plays mostly for the Old Dunstonian Sports Club in Kent - as their overseas player no less.
The club has won back-to-back promotions over the last two years, with Arora playing a key role. He was the second-highest wicket-taker in the league in 2019, and often takes in excess of 100 wickets a season. He also averages around 30 with the bat, making him a more than useful all-rounder.
He doesn’t play a lot while in India, which is probably understandable after playing 60 matches a year in England! He does participate in some net sessions and plays a few games here and there.
After picking up a five-wicket bag in the Sai Mumbai Master Premier League in 2018 (including an all-bowled hat-trick), the CricketGraph website could barely contain its disbelief, reporting that Arora “continues to play cricket at the jaw-dropping age of 49!”
All prospective members of the Indian side had to commit to playing in the trials, which were held in Mumbai in December. The enthusiasm for this concept was apparent in the fact that over 25 cricketers attended – most flying in from various corners of the globe.
Arora performed especially well in the trials, taking six wickets in the games, including (another) hat-trick. He also scored 63 not out in the last match.
“The standard was pretty good,” Arora said. “All these cricketers are very talented and high performers in their respective countries.”
Another feature of that trial week was its Bollywood flavour. The Indian captain is a Bollywood celebrity (producer and promoter Shailendra Singh) and various movie stars and other celebrities (Azaad Khan, Suniel V Shetty and Vinod Kambli among others) dropped in to the trial matches at various stages.
“Having a few Bollywood stars encouraging was the icing on the cake,” Arora said. “They were very supportive of this initiative. We were all very excited to meet the film stars who support and encourage cricket.”
As mentioned, India does not have the roll call of famous cricketers in its squad that some other countries do. However, as Arora noted, “Team India is very proud, committed and motivated to give our best. We may not have players with a past international history, but we do have players who are capable of creating new history.”
Impact: Arora’s impact is likely to come from his point of difference - you don’t get to face many left-arm wrist-spinners, especially wily and accurate ones. He also seems to have a knack for taking hat-tricks! His challenging bowling and more-than-useful middle-order batting should make Ashwani Arora a key player in the Indian side.
By Jim Morrison