Updated: Oct 26
BY MARGOT BUTCHER REPUBLISHED FROM OUTRIGHT #50
Having a career plan early doors in a solid profession like accountancy is quite possibly the smartest thing a top order batter could do.
We all know the vicissitudes of fortune that accompany the job of facing the new ball. The percentages you’re up against. The self-torture of watching your dismissal on the Pooch 31 times. The deeply satisfying knocks that come along every so often, and the first-baller to vicious late in-swing two days later.
At nearly 34, Jeet Raval can take cricketing vicissitudes in his stride. Away from cricket, he’s always been a man with a plan, and works full-time for accountancy and auditing leader BDO Tauranga. Having an off-field career was something he prioritised early in life and he’s certain it’s helped him keep an even keel through all the ups and downs of the game, and to maintain his enjoyment — even when he gets that late swing.
“Having balance in life was something that was engrained in me for years,” says Raval who even as an 17-year-old knocking around at Suburbs New Lynn came across as eminently sensible. “I wanted to progress in all areas of life, not just cricket. That is something I really tried to focus on. Yes, there are some hard days along the way, but you ask yourself why do you do it, and you know the answers are there. It’s because you want to grow yourself, and be a family one day…”
He was already at Uni on the longish path to becoming a chartered accountant when he started playing professional cricket as a rookie back in 2008/09. After polishing off his Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting and Commercial Law in 2010, Raval enjoyed a couple of winter stints in England in his early 20s before an injury thwarted his plans to go back: “I was glad then that I had that safety net of being able to work as a graduate accountant.”
Now that he and wife Surabhi are parents to their beautiful first-born son Kiaan, all that historic juggling practice, the discipline of divvying up his time and focus, is really coming in handy.
Kiaan was born at the tail of last summer — just days before Raval strode out onto Cobham Oval and hit a first-class double ton in a new Northern Districts all wickets partnership record of 334 with Bharat Popli. Coincidence? We think not.
“Having a newborn is awesome and if I ever needed to worry less about all the small things in cricket, becoming a father definitely helps you do that! There are just bigger, important things to think about like looking after a little human so, from a cricket perspective, you learn to let things go a bit more. You don’t dwell on it so much when you get home after a training session because your attention is required elsewhere. I feel it keeps me fresh for the next training session — I’m not consumed by thinking about the game all the time anymore. It’s a good thing.”
When Raval moved from Auckland to Northern Districts ahead of last season, he and Surabhi settled at the Mount - a lifestyle they are loving with the bonus of quality year-round training, interspersed with trips to see family in Auckland and plenty of face-timing with extended family in India, where Raval lived for the first 16 years of his life.
Years ago, his father’s chance conversation at a service station with Sri Lankan-born SNLCC cricket coach and entrepreneurial chef Kit Perera provided both an invitation to train at Suburbs and a personal mentor who helped him find his feet as a young immigrant from India trying to adapt to Kiwi life. Perera has remained a close friend, and it was Perera who introduced Raval to Rob Foster, a senior partner at BDO Tauranga.
“Rob invited me to come in during the winter to work and I jumped at the opportunity — those months are typically a busy time for accountancy firms as most companies have their end of financial year on 31 March.
“My work hours are flexible as long as I get the work done, and over the summer months I go on unpaid leave, but with the ability to come back in and work anytime. With the baby and cricket as well, I’m really grateful to BDO for giving me that awesome opportunity. I think the freedom of flexitime is a big aspect of people’s wellbeing at the moment too, and the pandemic has shown that when you have that freedom, productivity goes up.”
Being good at juggling balls has also allowed Raval to pursue his burgeoning interest in governance. Sitting on a board is like having a bird’s eye view of an organisation, he says.
“Cricket is my passion and I want to stay involved in cricket, but if I can combine my accounting and business background, and merge that with the cricket side of things, then that’s even better — making sure the game is in a healthy state, making sure we make decisions for the right reasons, that’s what drives me. And I am pretty handy with a balance sheet.”
After expressing his interest, he was invited onto the NZCPA Board as an Associate Director late last year. He’s also now sitting on the Bay of Plenty Cricket Board as an independent director.
“I’m incredibly proud of the CPA as an organisation and what they do for players in this country, so I really wanted to be involved,” says Raval. “With the Master Agreement negotiations going on at the same time, it was an awesome opportunity to learn and observe the legal side of things, commercial, the Personal Development space and so on.
“I really enjoyed the opportunity to have an overview, and it’s something I want to be involved in going forward. I think as players, we have to realise that 20 years ago certain players made sacrifices for us to get to where we are now, so it’s important that we preserve that legacy and try to look after our next generation of cricketers, including the women who are going to be playing this game in the next 10 to 15 years. I was incredibly proud to be involved even in a small way in the Master Agreement process. It is a huge step forward.”
Back at home, Kiaan is starting to recognise Dad and bursts into a smile when he comes home from training or work. “It makes all the challenges worthwhile!”
And while he still might be a process-driven top order man who watches the odd dismissal 31 times, and has long since come to accept he will never be a Colin de Grandhomme, see-the-ball, hit-the-ball player with the exquisite simplicity that he can only dream of, he’s keen as mustard for another trip around the traps as Northern Brave looks to defend their Super Smash crown — Raval lifting the trophy as their first-time captain.
“I like to break things down and analyse. That’s my style of working, so I enjoyed the planning that came with captaincy, the analysis that came from talking to the coaches and players and then giving guys the platform to go out and play the way they want to play. That fire in my own belly is still there too. I still aspire to be involved with the Blackcaps and I keep looking at my game and trying to convert that into solid contributions for ND. Hopefully it will be another good summer!”