Young guns to the fore in IPL-15

G Viswanath

IPL trophy I ANI

Fresh faces have cropped up in the Tata IPL-15. About a handful have raised the bar and provided entertainment and value to their respective teams. Their performances with the bat in the coming few weeks will reveal what is in store for them in their career. As of now, they hold a lot of promise.

The IPL has returned to India after an almost two-season gap – because the full 2020 season and the second half of the season 2021 were played in the Arabian gulf because of the pandemic --- the fans have been able to connect with their favourite stars and also the newcomers who in particular have caught the attention of the discerning and the layman alike.

Even the national selection committee and the BCCI must be happy that a bunch of youngsters are making a serious attempt to give an exhibition of their talent spotted by their respective franchises like Mumbai Indians and Lucknow Super Giants. The IPL has truly become a talent hunting competition for Indian cricket. This has been proved time and again.

The most impressive among this small lot has been Mumbai Indians’ left-hander Tilak Varma. The five-time winner of the league was not able to retain South African Quinton de Kock – also a left-hander --- for season-15 because of the four-player retention rule. De Cock was picked up by Lucknow Super Giants before the auction.

Tilak Varma of Mumbai Indians in action | PTI

In these circumstances, MI went talent hunting and made a successful bid for Varma at Rs. 1.7 crore at the auction. MI appeared to be keen and eager to give him the big break at the first opportunity in the middle order, and Varma has responded in a remarkable manner for the franchise.

Talent hunting became a big activity of all franchises once the IPL came into existence in 2008, and the MI saw a bright spark in Varma, born in Hyderabad. Mumbai was quick to target him at the auction and bought him. He is a big investment MI would be extremely pleased with.

Varma made a 15-ball 22 against Delhi Capitals with three boundary hits, but it was against Rajasthan Royals that the curious and the expert were able to dissect his batting quality and form a quick opinion that he is in a for a long race.

Chasing the Royals’ tall score of 197 and coming in to bat at the fall of the second wicket at 40 in the last ball of the fourth over, Varma joined forces with another left-hander with an attacking outlook, Ishan Kishan and delivered a partnership that raised hopes of an MI victory. Their partnership was worth 81 runs off 54 balls and in 41 minutes the pair showed its mettle and brought cheer to the MI dugout. Varma made 61 off 33 balls with three 4s and five 6s, with a repertoire of strokes scattered all over the park.

Then he made a 27-ball unbeaten 35 against the Kolkata Knight Riders and took his side to a modest total of 151. For the second match in a row, Varma showed a refreshing maturity to size up the situation and play for the team. He was run out for 0 against the Royal Challengers, Bangalore.

Varma has already established permanency in the team and could feature among the brightest talent to emerge out of this ongoing league. He is only 19 and he has played four first-class matches for Hyderabad, a team that has given India some stylish players from M.L. Jaisimha to V.V.S. Laxman.

The youngster has scored 255 runs with two half-centuries, including a 90 against Bengal and 63 against Chandigarh. He has scored over 1200 runs in white-ball competitions (50 overs and Twenty20) and it is the results he has shown in the short formats that spread the word about his approach to batting and stroke play. Varma has now become an important cog in the wheel of the MI batting, especially its middle order.

Ayush Badoni is another batter who has sparked in the nascent stage of his IPL career. He scored a roaring half-century on debut for Lucknow Super Giants against the Gujarat Titans at the Wankhede Stadium and has since warranted attention from one and all. He faced 41 balls and hit 54 with four 4s and three 6s and most importantly, he oozed confidence facing all comers. After a fine knock in his first match, Badoni has made scores of 19 not out, 19, 10 not out and 5. He has batted at No. 6, not a position one gets to face many deliveries.

Ayush Badoni plays a shot | ANI

He has played Twetny20 matches for Delhi and he has been hand-picked by former India star Gautam Gambhir for the Lucknow franchise.

Then four days ago Gujarat Titans sent out Tamil Nadu left-hander and 20-year-old Sai Sudharsan at No. 3 and, during his 30-ball 35, sent Punjab Kings and South Africa fast bowler Kagiso Rabada over the long-on picket without fear. He contributed his best to the 101 runs stand with Shubman Gill off 68 balls in and in a matter of one hour made sure that his team would be able to surmount the challenge of outscoring the rival’s 190. Eventually, Rahul Tewatia hit two sixes off the last two balls and the Titans won the match leaving Sudharsan a happy young man.

The last to join the young aspirants' group in batting was the left-hander Abhishek Sharma who after mediocre performances for the Sunrisers Hyderabad for three years, played a match-winning knock of 75 against the struggling Chennai Super Kings. It was Sharma’s first half-century in the league, but at the end of the campaign against the four-time winner, the Sunrisers camp was happy that Sharma finally delivered a victory on his own, but with some help from Rahul Tripathi.

Only twenty matches have been played so far in the 70-match league and some players could be exhausted, but a few like Varma, Badoni, Sudharsan and Abhishek Sharma would be looking forward to more opportunities and more runs which would at least get them an India `A’ or Emerging India call in white-ball cricket.

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