With renewed confidence, Sankar eyes Guyana Harpy Eagles call-up
As crafty and delightful as it seems, bowling leg-spin is no easy task.
It is arguably the one bowling form that has a very slim margin for error.
Despite this, there has been a significant resurgence in wrist-spinners in International cricket, and their effectiveness has been evident, especially in the limited-over formats.
Hayden Walsh Jr., Yannic Cariah, and recently, Abhijai Mansingh of Jamaica have been in the headlines regionally.
From a Guyana perspective, since the likes of Devendra Bishoo and, to a lesser extent, Amir Khan and Jonathan Foo during his youth days, leg-spinners have not gripped the local headlines.
After taking a self-imposed break from cricket to find financial stability and care for his young daughter, former youth standout Steven Sankar has consistently found success on the domestic circuit, so much so that he is now eyeing a maiden senior call-up to the Guyana Harpy Eagles.
The 28-year-old, who is now attached to Demerara Cricket Club after starting his cricket at Malteenoes, has a laser focus at present on forcing his way in the senior set-up via impressive performances.
In the lone practice match thus far for the Eagles ahead of the Regional Four-Day season from February 7, the ‘leggie’ was the standout bowler, grabbing match figures of 9-71 from 14.1 overs.
“It has been 10 years, and I have never played [senior cricket] for Guyana. Looking back, everyone I played with has elevated or gone, and I said [to myself], I have to put in the work to ensure I do.”
“I have been good for a while, but I felt it was not enough, and I said I have to do more,” the young man related after his performances over the weekend.
Coming out of regional youth cricket, Sankar seemed on course to challenge the incumbents on the senior national team, as he was the joint leading wicket-taker for Guyana in the 2014 Three-Day version of the Regional Under-19 tournament after ending with 15 wickets with Sharaz Ramcharan.
That season, he was also second for Guyana in the wicket-taking list in the limited-over format, picking up 12 wickets.
Those performances led to him being fast-tracked into the Demerara senior team for the then highly competitive senior Inter-County tournament at 18.
But, it wasn’t until 2019, when he ended the local 50-over Franchise League with 13 wickets, the most by any leg-spinner in the tournament, and a best of 5-17 against West Berbice, that Sankar really started to grab the attention.
“I was very low on confidence a couple of years ago, but now I feel something different, a desire to compete at the highest level.”
He indicated his improvement in fitness is linked to “putting in the work” and spending more time understanding the art of leg spin.
“Every day I go on YouTube [and] watch videos of leg-spinners to see how they grip the ball and bowl on different surfaces, and when I go practice, I try to implement such in my game, with the help of the coaches,” Sankar noted by further explaining the key is continued work given the difficulty of the art.
A boyhood fan of the magic of Shane Warne, Sankar explained he has now taken homage to the style of the Afghan ‘leggie’ Rashid Khan, given they share a similar desire to surprise batsmen with the googly.
“You need to be able to be attacking against batsmen and be effective in all conditions,” Sankar explained.
Though anxious to for the Harpy Eagles, he plans not to ‘throw in the towel’ if the call does not come now since he expressed a desire that “you have to keep working; you cannot give up.”
His heightened interest in a potential call is linked to the unavailability of some senior players for at least the first two rounds of the regional tournament.
Shamar Joseph’s story of being a security guard to an international cricketer motivates Sankar as he firmly believes, “You just need a chance, you just need an opportunity.”
He indicated that Joseph and his clubmate Tevin Imlach, who is also in Australia, are “hard workers,” which he marvels at and knows is a key to reaping success.