I’m locked in. Straight up.

I’ve always played my cricket with a “never-satisfied”, “learn and grow” mentality.

My whole makeup as an athlete, has been to wake up tomorrow, an even better cricketer and person than I am today.

That approach has served me well to this point; I actually have my parents to thank when it comes to my work ethic.

They set the tone for me from an early age. Not through words, simply the way they carried themselves when it came to their work-life balance.

My parents have been living in Australia for a long time; they’re Australian citizens, and while we are proud of our Indian heritage; we are “true blue” Australians.

Ever since I was a kid, my family and I would spend our summers following the Australian Test cricket team through our TV living room.

When we weren’t watching the likes of Steve Waugh, Shane Warne and Adam Gilchrist on TV, my Dad and I would be having a hit ourselves in the backyard.

Jason Sangha

I still remember when I was 13; training everyday, hitting balls on the street with Dad.

I remember when I first started, we bought a bowling machine; he would literally carry that bowling machine from our house to the nets and it was about a 50m walk.

But carrying a heavy bowling machine wasn’t always fun. We would do it everyday for three hours. And my parents were hard working people, but it’s just the extent they went through to help me pursue my dream of one day playing cricket for Australia.

I remember Mum, three days a week, driving me two-and-a-half hours to Sydney after school when I first began being selected for representative teams.

Mum would wait three hours for me to finish training; it would then take us two hours back to drive back home.

We would do that three times a week. There are no words I can find now, to describe how much that meant to me.

I really couldn’t appreciate, at the time, how much my parents gave up just to see me pursue a life in cricket. I do now.

You don’t actually understand how much your parents really do for you.

So when I did make the U19 Australian Team, and was told I was named captain, that wasn’t a moment for me. It was a moment for my family. For everything they had sacrificed, to help us reach that moment.

They have been the co-captains of “our team” my whole life.

It was an absolute amazing time to share that national captaincy announcement with them and I’ll never forget that moment.

The U-19 Cricket World Cup is easily the greatest experience I’ve had in my short career so far.

It’s weird; you grow up watching the World Cup, and big moments, and you dream of trying to be in those moments.

I remember I used to practise with my Dad and everytime we used to have this thing where we’d be like, last over you need 12 runs to win and you’d pretend you’re in those moments and that was as close as I felt to being in the actual World Cup.

Everyone there was a similar age and it was just an unreal experience; it was a real eye opener for me.

Firstly you’re playing against other cricketing nations in the world, and their unique brand of cricket.

The month inside camp gives you a small glimpse of knowing what it’s like to be a professional cricketer.

We had a lot of media follow us around and the locals in New Zealand knew exactly who we were because obviously we were part of the World Cup there.

It was fantastic, it was such a good experience and it’s something that you definitely take away from it.

I’m hoping it won’t be my last World Cup.

The captaincy, in itself, was a tremendous opportunity and the support I had from the entire team made the role all the more special.

I was kind of speechless at the announcement… simply going through training camp, I was just thinking to myself that if I even get a spot in that team, that’s the biggest achievement I could ever think of.

But to be told I would be the captain of the side… I remember Ryan Harris ringing me and I was just in my room I wasn’t really doing too much that day.

I was just in my room relaxing. I was actually next to one of mates, I was just talking to him and then next minute Ryan Harris is ringing me. I was like “hold on wait a minute, let me take this call it’s pretty important” and when he told me the news I was like starstruck.

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - JANUARY 29: Captain Jason Sangha of Australia speaks to the media during a press conference following the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup Semi Final match between Australia and Afghanistan at Hagley Oval on January 29, 2018 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer-IDI/IDI via Getty Images)
CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND – JANUARY 29: Captain Jason Sangha of Australia speaks to the media during a press conference following the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup Semi Final match between Australia and Afghanistan at Hagley Oval on January 29, 2018 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer-IDI/IDI via Getty Images)

For me captaincy is something I’ve always loved to do; ever since I was a young age, my parents always told me to be a leader, not a follower, and I think from that day they always pushed me to lead from the front.

And that didn’t have to be I was school captain or house captain or even anything like that, it just had to be to make sure that I was setting a good example that everyone could see.

And sometimes it didn’t have to be that just because everyone sees it you show good acts of leadership it was always the stuff that people don’t really see behind the scenes that really defined who you were.

Obviously there is a bit of extra pressure and more of a responsibility, but in terms of my cricket I think knowing that I sort of set the tone of the team and putting that bit more responsibility on yourself it makes me really pride my wicket and make sure that I’m doing the best I can do and lead from example.

It’s awesome fun, I’ve always loved doing it and much as everyone says the pressures that come along with it, you get to set the pace of the whole game.

If you need a break you’re the one that can actually take a break from the game and just sit down and just think for a little bit.

At the end of the day you’re controlling the pace of your team. If you need the team to slow down a little bit or get through some overs and build some momentum I think you’re the one that sets that tone.

As much as everyone says, yes it’s definitely pressured and definitely more responsibility, I think it’s the way you take on those responsibilities as captain. And that something that I love doing.

Even when we were at the World Cup, I actually received a video message from Steve Smith… he said “To Jase and the Under-19s, good luck for the final against India”.

That was just incredible.

Of course being with NSW team, I’ve crossed paths with Steve a couple of times and they’re just dreams come true.

But I have always been cautious of not getting too caught up.

You can go two ways with that kind of stuff, you can really go big headed and realise “Yeah these guys think I’m great… it’s time to stop training or stop trying to improve because what I’m doing is obviously right”.

But for me I’ve always tried to have that growth mindset and realise at the end of the day, yes these people are saying good things about me so of course I’m doing something right, but at the same time I believe you can never stop growing.

I remember one of my idols, Lebron James, watching videos of other Cleveland Cavaliers players and saying we’ll get to training 30 minutes before training starts, and he’d be there 2 hours before, saying why aren’t you guys here an hour or two earlier.

And he’s such a role model like that, and he’s been playing for 15 years, and he still keeps doing it and still keeps trying to be better than he can be yesterday.

I think that’s the type of mindset I’ve tried to have since being a young kid, because I think cricket’s a funny game where you can never be perfect at what you’re going to do.

Being part of the NSW team, I have added exposure to the pressures of being a professional player.

Which has been hard, when I’ve had to couple those commitments with high school studies.

I was waking up at 5am, going for my runs and doing my gym in the morning before school from 5-6/7.30.

And I would go to school and I’d come back and I’d train from 3:30pm straight after school to about 7 o’clock at night, but I knew none of the NSW players would see any of it, because they can only judge you from what they see.

So when I scored that century last year, it was then when I definitely felt as though I belonged at the level.

It gave me the confidence to know those people knew that yes I can play at this level and yes I am putting in the hard yards in and I’m trying to be a better player everyday.

And I think that was the moment where I realised I definitely belong and I definitely can play at this level.

And that’s not just first class cricket but I knew I was facing international bowlers so I knew that I do belong at this level, I do belong in that team and maybe this is one way I can remind the guys that I am working hard.