IPL in UAE: Kings XI Punjab’s birthday boy Neesham keeps it in family

Dubai: Birthday boy Jimmy Neesham his sporting genes will stand out for the Kings XI Punjab during this season’s Indian Premier League (IPL).

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Picked up by Kings XI Punjab during the December 2019 auction, Neesham hails from a family of athletes. His parents played senior-level rugby and netball for New Zealand, while his grandparents have represented the country in rowing and athletics.

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“That sporting ability and athleticism has been in my family for a fair while,” Neesham explained as he ushered in his 30th birthday on Thursday.

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Sport almost came naturally to Neesham and he reveled in a fair of disciplines till he set his heart on taking up cricket as a profession. “I was a bit chubby and slow as a kid, so the thought of batting, standing in one place and hitting the ball while other people had to go chase it was pretty appealing,” Neesham told the official KXIP website.

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“By the time I was 17 or 18, cricket was pretty clearly the sport that I was best at so it was an obvious decision to focus on that long term,” he added.

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And if there had been any doubt, then that too would have disappeared after he had got a memorable autograph from former New Zealand all-round Chris Cairns. “I remember being a very young kid and getting Chris Cairns’ autograph on the boundary when he was playing a domestic game once, I think it was a game between Canterbury and Auckland. It was pretty exciting to get that autograph of one of your heroes I guess,” Neesham said.

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While he was already passionate about the gentleman’s game, that special souvenir from a fellow Kiwi all-rounder was an icing on the cake for Neesham in his early cricket days.

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Since then, Neesham found himself in the squad for the U19 World Cup of 2010, after having a good domestic season. The all-rounder was one of the stars of that tournament, as he was the second highest run-getter for New Zealand and also picked up two wickets in the competition.

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“Being picked in the World Cup squad was obviously a huge confidence booster, and then I came back to domestic cricket, and debuted for the Auckland Aces in the T20 final of the SuperSmash League, and I think I top-scored in that final as well,” Neesham said. “From then on, I’ve had the confidence that I have the ability to succeed, I’ve always had that self-belief that I was good enough to play cricket from then.”

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It has been nearly a decade now since that SuperSmash final, and Neesham’s career has only grown from there on, playing in the 2019 World Cup final and performing admirably in franchise competitions all over the world, making good of that decision to take up cricket full-time.

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