How Sangha spun his way to national selection
Tanveer Sangha's journey to leg-spin is a little bit like Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
Growing up in Sydney's south-west, Sangha was a fast bowler outside of playing volleyball and soccer, which were his preferred sports.
But when Sangha turned 13 he realised his arms were too slow to make it as a quick. So Sangha switched to off-spin, only to figure out that his fingers were too small for the craft Nathan Lyon has mastered.
So Sangha landed on leggies as a wrist-spinner. According to spin whisperer John Davison, the man who made Lyon into a Test cricketer, it was a perfect match.
"Leg-spin bowling is something you've got to be really passionate about," said Davison, who is also Sangha's spin coach at Sydney Thunder.
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"He's gone through some overuse-type injuries and a stress fracture a couple of years ago.
"So he's obviously bowled a lot as a junior and he's ahead of the pack in terms of the work he's done and skills he's developed.
"He's a talented leg-spin bowler who's got the ability to spin the ball hard, got good variations and manages to put it in a pretty good area, which is pretty rare for a young wrist-spinner."
It has been a transforming summer for Tanveer.
He turned 19 in November, made his Big Bash League debut in December and earned selection for Australia's tour of New Zealand on Wednesday.
Thunder teammate Daniel Sams, 28, received Australia's 95th T20 cap last month, and now Sangha, Riley Meredith, 24, and Josh Philippe, 23, are next in line.
When David Warner was 22 he famously made his international debut before his first-class debut and now Sangha is in the same lane.
It's been a rollicking rise for the kid born in Australia to parents who migrated from India in 1997.
The East Hills Boys High School graduate - where Steve Waugh, Mark Waugh and Ian Thorpe were also educated - turned heads as soon as he turned to leggies.
Sangha has since added a cross-seam delivery, top-spinner, slider and wrong-un to his arsenal, alongside his stock ball.
Rewind 12 months and Sangha was Australia's leading wicket-taker at the Under-19 World Cup in South Africa, stunning Nigeria with 5-14.
Sangha then scored a Cricket NSW contract last year and burst into Thunder's XI for the first game of the season.
Sangha started the Big Bash summer carrying a towel to mop up his own nervous sweats, and by his fourth game he was mopping up the Melbourne Renegades.
Sangha's 4-14 (3.2 overs) included the wickets of Aaron Finch and Mohammed Nabi, and Chris Lynn, Ben McDermott, Pete Handscomb, Moises Henriques and Dawid Malan have also joined his list of scalps.
Ricky Ponting noted that Sangha "bowls proper good balls" while Brad Haddin rated his calmness in the cauldron as an unflustered teenager capable of setting his own fields.
Incredibly, Sangha's BBL numbers almost mirrored those of Adam Zampa, Australia's frontline white-ball spinner.
Sangha took 21 wickets at 16.7 with an economy rate of 8.1. Zampa took 19 wickets at 17.5 with an economy rate of 7.4.
With Zampa on the plane to New Zealand and Lyon off to South Africa there was the opportunity for Sangha to stay home and sink his teeth into the red ball for NSW when the Sheffield Shield season resumes.
But selector Trevor Hohns said Sangha was ready to take flight.
"The last couple of years that we've started to hear about Tanveer and now seeing him perform in the Big Bash and performing very well at a young age is very exciting," Hohns said.
"We have high hopes for him, however we don't want to put too much pressure on a young player, especially a leg-spinner.
"If he gets the opportunity in New Zealand we have to make sure we look after him because experienced players at international level will target a new guy.
"It's a great opportunity for him and exposure for him to find out what the standard is like."
Why selectors are backing Finch after BBL shocker
Aaron Finch's disastrous Big Bash League campaign has had little baring on his standing as Australia's white-ball captain with selectors backing their man to lead next month's tour of New Zealand.
Finch and vice-captain Matthew Wade, the incumbent Twenty20 wicketkeeper, are in line to open the batting in the five-game T20 series as Australia fine-tunes its plans for this year's World Cup in India.
Finch's BBL average crashed to 13.8 runs at a strike-rate of 113.3 in a season where the Melbourne Renegades' captain failed to post a half-century.
Michael Clarke, Australia's 2015 World Cup-winning captain, turned the heat up on Finch, 34, by declaring he was in "deep trouble".
"He got dropped from Bangalore (in the) IPL, he has had a horrible BBL," Clarke said.
"There's some serious pressure on Finchy in short-form cricket as captain."
But the selectors have longer memories and Finch's ODI knocks of 114, 60 and 75 this summer have kept him on sold ground.
"Yes, he's been a little bit out of nick or out of runs, and, yes, he'd be concerned about his performance," national selector Trevor Hohns said on Wednesday.
"But, let's face it, on the international stage he is very well-credentialed and one of the best T20 players in the world."
Finch - who is always forthright and honest about his form - conceded he had an "absolute shocker".
Finch usually hits a lot of balls in the lead-up to tournaments and then stays fresh for matches, but he was a regular in the nets this summer was he frantically tried to snap his run of outs.
"The harder I trained, the worse I got, which is the opposite of what everyone tells you to do," he said.
Finch's wife Amy worked out he had enjoyed just 20 days outside of lockdown or biosecurity bubbles since April.
The destructive right-hander will relax at the beach before departing for New Zealand with the T20 squad on February 7.
With the Test squad in South Africa it is effectively a team of Big Bash All-Stars with Jhye Richardson, Riley Meredith and Jason Behrendorff set to spear the attack.
Richardson dislocated his shoulder almost two years ago and Cricket Australia's medical staff insisted he wasn't ready for the demands of Test cricket.
"Jhye was discussed at length regarding inclusion for the South African tour, there's no doubt," Hohns said.
"However we took advice from the medical people and in the end it was decided that his comeback to international cricket should be gradual.
"We also figured with their advice that coming back in a T20 tour to New Zealand would be ideal."
Mitchell Marsh (side strain) has been told he cannot bowl in the BBL finals although should be fine in New Zealand.
The Aussies picked T20 openers Finch, Wade, D'Arcy Short, Marcus Stoinis and Josh Phillippe.
But they will fight for top-order places with Hohns reaffirming Australia's commitment to picking specialist middle-order finishers, such as Marsh, Ashton Turner, Ben McDermot and Daniel Sams.
"T20 cricket to us is role-specific," he said.
"We'll be looking for middle-order players knowing we've got plenty of players who can fill a role at the top of the order."
Originally published as How Sangha spun his way to national selection