There’s a saying that when a door closes for you, another one opens up someplace elsewhere. In today’s world of International cricket, International Cricket Council (ICC) revised Eligibility rules has brought that saying as a blessing in disguise for many who have aspirations of playing International cricket.
But with no opportunities available in their own country of birth, players now look to the greener pastures in other countries to continue those aspirations. For some, it has taken a long time to fulfil and for former India U-19 player, Sunny Sohal, the story hasn’t been any different. Part of a U-19 team captained by Piyush Chawla and boasting the likes of Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja and others in the line-up, Sohal was part of the squad in 2007 for a quadrangular series in Malaysia against Sri Lanka, England and Malaysia. Sohal also top-scored in a tri-series later against Sri Lanka and England, with 288 runs including 2 half-centuries.
Then came another opportunity to further his ambitions to play for India as he got picked up by Punjab Ranji Team and went onto having a stellar 2008-09 season, in which he amassed 569 runs at an average of 51.72 in seven matches. Quite a mean feat by no means and the future looked even more promising for the young opener. And then he got selected in the India Red squad in 2009, which used to be a big platform for young India aspirants to showcase their talent in front of National selectors.
A lone innings without score playing for India Red in NKP Salve Challenger Trophy in October 2009 was the last chance he ever got to impress India selectors and with a team already boasting of big names and very little vacancies in the batting line-up, the opportunity didn’t come knocking again.
But in the meantime, with Indian Premier League (IPL) coming into existence in 2008, Sunny Sohal was once again in the thick of things as he played for Kings XI Punjab from 2008-2010, playing 11 matches for the franchise. Although he didn’t mark out a name for himself over there, he was bought by now-defunct Deccan Chargers (Hyderabad) for the 2011 season, in which he went onto score 249 runs in 10 games at the top of the order. And when things started to look a bit better for Sunny again, everything went into the dark all of a sudden.
With Deccan acquiring the services of wicket-keeper Parthiv Patel and him being a specialist opener, Sunny Sohal was seen warming the bench for the 2012 season. Not an assurance you would like to get when you had a somewhat successful outing in the previous season for the team. Taking the bitter pill in his stride, Sunny again got his hopes up when Kohli-led Royal Challengers Bangalore picked him up for the 2013 season. Little did he expect there as RCB already had a set opening combination with Chris Gayle at the top and with Sunny being an opener all his playing career, the opportunity to get another IPL outing went for a toss. In March 2014, he got the opportunity for playing again in State-level cricket as he got selected in the Punjab side and played all but two matches in the entire 50-overs tournament to suggest that his time was quickly winding up and he was heading into the long list of Indian players who vanished in the smoke after promising much when they had started off.
Enough was enough in India is what prompted Sohal to take the advise of a friend based in Washington and he took up the opportunity to play as a paid professional for Potomac Cricket Club in Maryland in 2014. Not a big move by any means but when he saw himself playing with International players from West Indies and Pakistan in a T20 tournament in Chicago in 2014, Sohal made up his mind to settle in the US for good and see what lies ahead of him to continue playing professional cricket.
Cricket in the US has always been restricted to T20 leagues staged in various parts of the country and Sohal ensured to stay abreast with the happenings in US cricket by playing in those leagues and with US national side always coping with the issues of having a steady top-order, it was always something that could have come up to his lap. And it did come but not without performing and Sohal hit exactly the right points when he scored a century in the 2016 Dallas Premier League T20 tournament in November, which had US national coach, Pubudu Dassanayeke in attendance. With Chairman of selectors, former West Indian, Ricardo Powell, also witnessing his playing abilities, the second chapter of his cricketing career took flight again as he got selected for the national squad to take part in the Cricket West Indies Super50 regional tournament in 2017.
Although he didn’t have a much productive outing in the tournament making 166 runs in 8 matches, his two half-centuries against Leeward Islands (50) and Jamaica (65) showed that the zeal is still very much there in the 30-year old and with Dassanayeke known to bring out the best from his wares, Sunny Sohal could very much have a productive career in the US colours in the coming years. with USA set to take part in ICC WorldT20 Americas A qualifiers and ICC WCL Division 3 towards the end of the year, it will be a busy period for Sunny Sohal as he gears up to play in another T20 league first, but unlike the domestic ones in the US, this is much bigger.
It is the Caribbean Premier League (CPL), that features in the top 3 global T20 leagues only behind IPL and BBL in terms of popularity and exposure, and with CPL franchises picking an ICC Americas player (either from USA or Canada) in their squads as part of CPL developmental program, Sunny Sohal was picked up in the CPL Draft held in London in Feb 2018 by Barbados Tridents as their 17th draft pick for $3000. He became the franchise’s 5th overseas player after Martin Guptill, Shakib Al-Hasan, Hashim Amla, Wahab Riaz and Junaid Khan, and will be seen mixing with some of the best Caribbean and overseas talent and his second coming in cricket will take full flight one more time.
A journey that reads India U-19 > India A > 2008-2013 IPL > four year of domestic cricket wilderness > T20 leagues in US > US national squad > CPL is quite something to be read about and for Sunny Sohal, his history with International cricket is far from over yet and definitely not on the brink of any stoppage anytime soon.
Welcome to the biggest party in International T20 cricket Sunny Sohal and hopefully, your career will once again rise to it’s maximum potential through USA cricket and CPL.