Talk about snaring the grand prize: a day with Shane Warne during the Boxing Day cricket test in Melbourne, learning the grand art of legspin.
And the winner is? Ish Sodhi.
Thanks to a nod and a wink from his employer, Northern Districts chief executive Peter Roach, a former Victorian team-mate of Warne's, New Zealand legspinner Sodhi is off to Melbourne on December 28 to hang out with his idol.
"I'm pretty fortunate to have that opportunity,' Sodhi, 21, said.
Roach kept wicket for Victoria in 25 first-class matches between 1995 and 2005, and also represented Australia under-19.
Sodhi said Roach initially got in touch with Warne and tested the water. He was willing, and New Zealand Cricket sealed the deal in recent days.
He will spend a day with Warne, bowling in the nets and talking legspin, before returning home on December 30.
"Right now I've got way too many questions that I would ask him, because he was a hero of mine growing up. I will have to narrow it down a little bit," Sodhi said.
"I'd like to do a bit of bowling under his eye. But the main thing I'll get out of it is probably cricket talk and what he can offer in that regard. He's got one of the greatest cricket brains of all time so it'd be rude not to be able to pick it for quite some time."
Sodhi, playing his fourth test at the Basin Reserve against West Indies, has already shown his class as a patient student of spin. In Dunedin, his first home test, he set up several West Indies batsmen and displayed all the variations, grabbing wickets with his quicker ball (Kirk Edwards) and googly (Shane Shillingford).
He took up legspin when he was 12 after attending a coaching clinic with former New Zealand offspinner Dipak Patel at Auckland's Papatoetoe club. Warne, who snared 708 wickets from 145 tests, was the obvious legspinning role model for a teenage Sodhi.
"My main memory of [Warne] is that 2005 Ashes when he got 40-odd wickets. England might have won those Ashes but my best memory is when they [England] were 100-5 or 500-3 he was still spinning the ball as hard as he possibly could and trying to get wickets. He never shied away from a battle and that's what I really loved about him."
Warne transferred his skill to the commentary box and offers some of the more incisive analysis of the game. Sodhi watched him on television in awe during the Twenty20 Big Bash a couple of seasons back, when Warne talked viewers through his repertoire via the microphone as he was trotting in to bowl.
"I stood up and gave him a slow clap in my living room. It was amazing. That cricket brain that he's got is obviously top notch and if you're able to pick it as a young spin bowler then you're in pretty capable hands."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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