Ish Sodhi has revealed the emotional attachment he feels towards Worcestershire CCC, thanks to the former New Road star who became a key mentor and launched him on the path to spin bowling.
The New Zealander was bowling pace up until the age of 12 but then a link up with the coach at the Howick Pakuranga cricket clinic in Auckland sparked a change of direction.
It was none other than Worcestershire CCC legend Dipak Patel who spent 11 years with the County and scored nearly 10,000 first-class runs and picked up more than 350 wickets with his spin.
He emigrated to New Zealand and played 37 Tests and 75 ODIs, and during the 1992 World Cup opened the bowling, which was then a revolutionary move for a spinner.
That was the year Sodhi was born, and it was after working with Patel and switching to bowling leg-spin, he rapidly rose up the cricketing ladder.
Now it is a special feeling for Sodhi to be playing Vitality Blast cricket this summer on the ground where Patel spent a significant part of his career and was a popular figure with members and supporters.
Sodhi, currently preparing for Thursday’s away Blast game with Lancashire Lightning, said: “I am aware that a long line of New Zealanders have played for Worcestershire, and I’m staying in the same place that Martin Guptill and Hamish Rutherford stayed at, so it’s nice to have that feeling of home.
“I spoke to them before I came here, and they’ve been excellent and getting in touch with me and letting me know that everyone at Worcester are great people, which is awesome.
“But one the big thing is one of my great heroes growing up was Dipak Patel, who played here for years and years and years.
“He taught me a lot when I was a kid. It is quite emotional to be here. I spoke to him the other day, and he said, ‘really enjoy Worcester,’ and it’s been really cool.
“I actually bowled my first spin delivery under Dipak. I had never learned to bowl spin until I went to an Academy (Howick Pakuranga) with him.
“He had been a spinner for New Zealand, and I thought ‘perhaps I should give this a crack.’ However, I went for leg-spin, not off-spin.
“He is an extraordinary man and was really helpful to me in those formative years.
“Dipak was quite hard on me when I was young, and I reckon at that time there was a part of me that would often rebel.
“Now that I am older, I look back now and realise how important that time was for me. He showed me a bit of discipline.
“It is really cool now that he is messaging me, and I feel really grateful that I can share a dressing room on the ground where he played for a long time. It is quite emotional for me.”
Sodhi was happy to answer the call from Worcestershire at short notice to fill their second overseas spot in the Vitality Blast.
He said: “I got the call on a Thursday, and by the Sunday, I was in England, and it’s great to get quite a few games in already.
“I think during the game at Northampton was the first time I’d seen the dark because the jet lag hit me hard, and I was asleep at 7.30 every night. It was nice to see the moonlight that evening!
“But when I was growing up, a lot of great players from New Zealand would come over and play county cricket.
“It was always something I aspired to do, and thankfully I’ve got the opportunity this summer to come with Worcestershire.”
Ish and his teammates will be looking to continue in the form which has brought wins over Durham and Leicestershire Foxes.
He said: “We had a good start, two wins and a tie from the first three games. You will get the occasional setbacks – but it’s how you react.
“The boys will want to try and produce the sort of performances we’ve put in during the last two games.”