Injury fails to slow Suhail
Suhail Chandhok at the Adelaide Oval Professional cricketer, Kollywood movie star and now one of India’s leading sports presenters and commentators – Suhail Chandhok has packed a fair bit in since graduating from the University of Adelaide seven years ago.
Professional cricketer, Kollywood movie star and now one of India’s leading sports presenters and commentators – Suhail Chandhok has packed a fair bit in since graduating from the University of Adelaide seven years ago. And it was his time spent in Adelaide that Suhail credits with giving him the confidence and life skills to follow his dreams.
“When you arrive in a completely new environment, where you know nobody and you’re completely on your own, you find ways to discover yourself,” he told Lumen from his new home of Mumbai. “The University and Australia gave me that confidence and within three months of arriving I felt I had something special that could have a major impact on my life.”
Although not on his original list of preferred options, Suhail came to Adelaide because it offered him the opportunity to study while following his passion for cricket. He enrolled in commerce, studying a double major in marketing and management, and signed up to the Adelaide University Cricket Club (AUCC) – and he made an impact in both.
Suhail came away with an award for the best marketing project in 2008 and also a prestigious Half Blue Award for Sporting Excellence after scoring back-to-back 100s for the AUCC versus Melbourne and Sydney universities.
His skills with both bat and ball – he’s a left-handed batsman and right-handed off-spinner – also saw him promoted to South Australian A-Grade cricket where he found himself playing against Test players such as Shaun Tait, Jason Gillespie and Darren Lehmann.
Suhail worked for two years as a senior coach at the South Australian Cricket Association aiding the development of young cricketing talent. He was also appointed head coach of the Sturt District Cricket Club women’s side with players going on to win the ICC Cricket World Cup in Australian colours in 2013.
“It was my dream to play at the Adelaide Oval so it was pretty special to have my name on the scoreboard where I knew the likes of Don Bradman also had his name. To play a day-night game there was amazing and to score back-to back centuries for AUCC is something I’ll never forget.”
Back in India Suhail used his skills and experience from university to establish his own sports PR and marketing firm, Adrenna Communications, and took his cricket to an even higher level. Cricketing scouts had spotted his talent and he was soon drafted by the Indian Premier League’s Bangalore Royal Challengers to join their camp for the Champions League T20 in 2009.
But Suhail’s promising cricketing career fell apart. Consecutive knee injuries put him in hospital and after multiple operations he resigned himself to never playing professional cricket again.
“I’ve always been an eternal optimist but after being hit by injury so soon after joining the Bangalore squad and after so much hard work, I was devastated,” says Suhail. “I’d always wanted to play professional sport and when it was taken away from me so very quickly, it took a long time to sink in. I couldn’t bear to watch cricket for eight months seeing all my mates playing when I couldn’t.”
It was while recuperating after surgery that Suhail’s next big break came out of nowhere. He always had an interest in drama and produced a series of short films, which ended up on YouTube. His acting talent was seen by South Indian film star Ajith Kumar and Suhail found himself cast in the Tamil movie Veeram, which became a major hit in early 2014.
“Working alongside some of the biggest names in Indian cinema was crazy and hard to take in initially,” says Suhail. “The fan base was all very surreal but I’ve learnt that you have to take your chances and go with the flow. It was a phenomenal experience and perhaps a tick on my bucket list as well.”
While featuring in a top-rating movie was fun – and Suhail says he’s not averse to acting again in the future – his real passion is still sport. That passion for sport and the camera came together in another small twist of fate when he was spotted and signed up by one of Asia’s largest sports networks, Star Sports.
“I come from three generations of sport – with my brother Karun, one of India’s only Formula 1 racing drivers – so that’s really where my heart is,” says Suhail. “I love sport so being able to work on events like the new Pro Kabaddi League or the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup is my dream job.”
Despite his successes Suhail hasn’t forgotten about Adelaide and intends to come back one day.“Adelaide was the ideal place for me and it’s my second home. I love the city, the people and everything about it. It’s not a big city but it’s got this charm about it that I really enjoy.”
Story by Ian Williams