By Tyler Lewis
A transcendent force has pushed Harkirat Bajwa down his cricket pathway.
Despite being born just a stone throw from one of the most famous cricket stadiums in Mohali, India, and living his first seven years in the cricket-obsessed nation, the teenage off-spinner was distant from cricket.
It took a move to Australia for the sport to finally force its way into his life.
“I personally wasn’t into it, you would think living in India I would be into cricket a lot, I recognized it, but I only fully liked it when I came here,” he recalled.
“When I came here I wanted to blend in with the community, so I started playing a bit of club cricket.
“That’s when I fell in love with cricket, I started to take a few wickets and make a few runs, cricket just slowly kept progressing.”
At that age, cricket wasn’t something he had great aspirations for, it was just a social avenue.
However that all rapidly changed for Bajwa, when he showed up to a practice game and spun his way into the state squad after its settlement.
“In terms of playing under-age pathway cricket, I wasn’t picked in the under-12s Vic squad and even making the under-15s squad… it was a pretty interesting story,” he explained.
“I got picked up to play for the YPL (Youth Premier League) team – the Pioneers – and we were having a praccy match and Paul Montgomery – who was the coach of the Vics – was just down looking at the praccy game.
“I somehow got Xander (Buxton), Devlin Webb and a few other good players out, so he called my dad and told him to bring me down to Vic Under-15s training.
“I wasn’t in the squad or anything, I just came down to one of their trial matches, the squad was already picked and I somehow took four or five wickets and before I knew I got picked to play for them.
“When I went to the carnival I didn’t play very well, so when I was standing there and they were reading out the teams, I was like ‘oh there’s not a huge chance I get picked here’.
“All of a sudden they called my name up… and from there on I feel I have been lucky to have been picked in all of the squads.”
Since working his way into the pathway system, Bajwa has been a mainstay in regular representative sides, including the most recent Under-19 World Cup side as an under-ager.
That experience in South Africa is one he will never forget, as it prepared him for a potential career at the top.
“You don’t realize until you play, the pressure of playing in a ground where there’s actually people watching and the media and stuff, it’s just so different,” he said.
“You recognize it (before you go), but I feel like playing in that condition you realize that it’s actually there.
“When I played my first game, there was a full crowd and when you’re warming up there is so much media and everyone.
“You can sometimes feel a bit lost, so I feel that was a great experience for me to have, for me to be able to know how to deal with those situations better – that was a great learning experience.”
While others struggled with the unknown atmosphere, Bajwa swiftly found a way to combat the unique picture of playing in front of a crowd.
“I think one of the ways to deal with it was to use the crowd as a motivator,” he said.
“They can either be going with you or against you, you just have to use it as a motivator… if the beat gets a hold of you, the crowd wants to see the beat hit more sixes.
“You just take it as a challenge upon yourself and go ‘okay, next ball I am going to deliver a ball that won’t let the crowd keep going’.
“Or they can be right behind you and want to see you bowl well, which you use as motivation.”
As he prepares for yet another representative tournament – after being selected for Victoria in the Under-19 National Carnival – Bajwa is hoping he can turn some previous form around, all after solidifying himself in Melbourne’s First XI.
“I haven’t had the best run at National Carnivals, so I feel like for me it’s about just expressing my natural game – whether that’s with the bat or with the ball,” he said.
“I just want to do my best for the team in any situation I get, there’s not much individual stuff, just more what the team needs at the specific situation.
“I feel like the next step for me is probably cementing my place in the ones at Melbourne.
“I think if I can cement my place there and be a regular in the side – and playing alongside great players like Kyle (Williamson), Jack Prestwidge and all these guys – learning from them.
“I feel like just cementing my place in that team is the next step in my journey.”
The 2022 National Championships will be held in Adelaide between December 14 and 22.