New Zealand Performance Analyst Saurabh Walkar Embracing Unexpected Opportunities

Saurabh Walkar, a seasoned cricket analyst with nearly two decades of experience, is currently filled with excitement and gratitude as he takes on his latest assignment as the Performance Analyst for the New Zealand team in the 2023 Men’s World Cup. Despite his extensive involvement with various cricket setups worldwide, including the Ranji Trophy in Mumbai, T10, The Hundred, and the T20 World Cup in 2021, Walkar considers this opportunity to be a dream come true.

Recalling his early days as a cricket enthusiast, Walkar reminisces about being captivated by the sport while watching the 1996 World Cup in India as a school kid. Little did he know then that he would one day be a part of a team set-up for another World Cup in his home country. The sheer joy and amazement he feels about this opportunity are indescribable.

Walkar’s journey as an analyst began over 18 years ago. Despite previously working with Afghanistan’s national team for a year and a half, including the T20 World Cup in the UAE in 2021, and achieving success with the Manchester Originals, he was taken aback when approached by New Zealand Cricket (NZC) to join their team for the upcoming World Cup. When he inquired about the reason behind their interest in him, he discovered that Simon Katich, the former Australian batter, had recommended him to Simon Insley, NZC’s Performance Manager.

Impressed by Walkar’s performance during his time with the Manchester franchise in The Hundred, where Katich served as the coach, NZC sought an analyst with experience working with different teams and in various locations in India, making Walkar a perfect fit for the role. Following a detailed interview, Walkar was delighted to be selected and found himself on the verge of living a dream he had never envisioned.

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Joining the New Zealand set-up ahead of their ODI series in England last month, Walkar initially felt some apprehension since he had never worked with anyone from the team before. However, his thorough preparation paid off, and he was warmly welcomed by the highly professional and friendly squad. Walkar appreciates the inquisitiveness of Matt Henry, a Kiwi player who constantly seeks to deepen his understanding of the game. Such challenges motivate Walkar, and he understands the importance of being prepared and staying one step ahead of the opposition.

In the ever-competitive cricket landscape, where match-ups are crucial across various formats, the role of an analyst has become increasingly significant. To optimize his role, Walkar emphasizes the need to work closely with the captain and coach, understanding their styles and preferences. He illustrates this through an example from his time with the Manchester Originals, where Katich, as the coach, delves into comprehensive analysis, seeking data, numbers, stats, videos, ground conditions, pitch behavior, and more. On the other hand, Jos Buttler, as the captain, focuses more on match-ups, requesting real-time information that can influence decisions during a match.

Walkar’s journey to becoming an analyst has been nothing short of a fairytale. In the mid-2000s, he made the bold decision to drop out of an engineering degree to pursue his passion for performance analysis. At that time, the role of an analyst in Indian cricket was still in its infancy, often referred to as “video analyst,” a term disapproved of by all analysts. Growing up in a traditional Maharashtrian household in Mumbai, Walkar had always been drawn to cricket. While studying engineering, he would spend hours playing at the famous Shivaji Park ground in Dadar, where he had the opportunity to bowl to English cricketers during their training camps. This experience sparked his interest in analysis after observing a team’s analyst capturing videos and discussing them with the players later on.

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Walking into the dressing room of Mumbai’s Ranji Trophy team, filled with cricketing legends like Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan, Ajit Agarkar, and Rohit Sharma during his debut season, was overwhelming for Walkar. Despite feeling intimidated, he quietly assisted the players whenever they sought his help. He recalls these moments when he recently entered the Lord’s dressing room for The Hundred final, appreciating how far he has come on his journey.

If given the chance to go back and complete his engineering degree, Walkar would make the same decision to drop out. The opportunity to pursue his passion and live his dream has been invaluable to him. As he embarks on this incredible assignment with the New Zealand team for the Men’s World Cup, Walkar’s gratitude and excitement are palpable.

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