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Tuesday, March 9, 2021

New kids on the block

Reading Time: 5 minutesYoung talent shines in the latest season of the Indian Premier League

Last over finishes. Last ball finishes. And even a Super Over!
Indeed, the eighth edition of the Indian Premier League is off to a great start. And yet, it is not the 16-crore worth Yuvraj Singh or the 10.5-crore worth Dinesh Karthik who have justified their price tag. While these two players are struggling to justify their worth, it has been a few younger players who have made the world sit up and take notice of their talent.
Even as the Mumbai Indians struggle to make their presence felt in the tournament, two Mumbai batsmen, 20-year old Shreyas Iyer and 24-year old Suryakant Yadav are making waves for the Delhi and Kolkata teams respectively. Similarly, Deepak Hooda, who turned 20 recently, the Baroda batsman, might well be the next poster boy of Indian cricket given his ability to hit big sixes.
On the bowling front it has been the likes of former India Under-19 star Sandeep Sharma, and Anureet Singh, both from Punjab, who are making the ball talk.
For variety, a 34-year old Pune bowler, Dominic Joseph Muthuswami – having graduated from playing tennis ball to cricket – is paying rich dividends for Delhi Daredevils, bowling some tight overs.
Fearless, talented, focused, and showing love for the big stage, these cricketers in their twenties have the promise of further riches to come. And they look destined to serve Indian cricket in the near future precisely because most of them have also done exceedingly well in Ranji Trophy as well.
Shreyas Iyer is quite well known in Mumbai for his exploits in the Ranji Trophy. He has been the highest scorer for Mumbai scoring over 800 runs. And in his debut season for the Delhi Daredevils, he has made an immediate impression becoming their highest run-scorer having played all their games so far.
Blessed with good height, he also has a positive outlook about him as he likes to dominate the bowling.
Former India cricketer, Praveen Amre, who knows the domestic circuit as well as the back of hishand, has been following his steady rise ever since he came to the Shivaji Park as a 13-year old kid.
“Shreyas has the X-factor,” says Amre, who is also the assistant coach for the Delhi Daredevils. “He is aggressive and his ability to score runs is a big positive. He is the youngest member in the team, but he is confident. He has more than 800 runs in Ranji Trophy and he has brought that same confidence to the IPL.”
Yet another Mumbai batsman who has been charming spectators with his dare-devil stroke-play is Suryakant Yadav.  Ironically, it was against his former franchise that he exploded – scoring a 20-ball knock of 46 for KKR against the Mumbai Indians. His innings was punctuated by five towering sixes which underlines his big-hitting prowess.

For someone who bats with a confidence bordering on arrogance, he is fast realising that patience and aggression should be friends not enemies.
“He has his own approach. Even if opposition captains put fielders to challenge him to go for the lap shot, Surya still takes them on,” says Praveen Amre under whom he made his Ranji Trophy debut. “Of late, however, he seems to be much calmer.”
Also presenting a calm and cool exterior is Deepak Hooda who celebrated his 20th birthday recently. The son of an Air Force officer, Hooda has his roots in Haryana, and played a bit of cricket for Delhi before moving on to Baroda whom he now represents in the Ranji Trophy.
Like Shreyas Iyer, Hooda too made his IPL debut this season. In fact, he is the youngest player in the competition. Having come up through the ranks, Hooda was one of the stars of India’s Under-19 World Cup triumph having excelled with both the bat and the ball.
Having scored a quick 30 off just 15 balls in his debut game against Punjab, Hooda showcased his mercurial talent in the next game against the Delhi Daredevils.  His blazing innings of 54 off just 24 balls turned the match on its head. And his four towering sixes drove the opposition to despair.
After six games, Hooda, who also bowls handy off-spin, is Rajasthan Royals’ biggest hitter and also its most economical bowler.
“He was one of the biggest hitters when we went on the Under-19 tour. One thing he really practiced was big hitting. He is a very good bowler as well in limited overs, and was one of the best fielders in the Under-19 World Cup. All combined, he was an exciting all-round package,” says Bharat Arun, India’s Under-19 coach who is now Team India’s bowling coach.
Interestingly Hooda is fond of writing a daily diary. Apart from that he loves to pick the brains of experienced players.  “He asks too many questions,” says former India bowler Munaf Patel. “Itne questions toh journalists bhi nahi puchte (even journalists don’t ask so many questions.)”
In a game dominated by the batters, it is bowlers like former India Under-19 star Sandeep Sharma who have kept the batsmen on a tight leash. Sandeep, who plays for Punjab, has a smooth run up, fine action and he can move the ball both ways.
The fact that he concedes less than six runs per over (5.55) is simply because he is both mean and crafty. He keeps the batsmen guessing before eventually spelling doom for them.

Yet another Punjab bowler who has impressed in his debut season is young Anureet Singh. Indeed, apart from the experienced Ashish Nehra, he is one Indian bowler who can bowl Yorkers fairly consistently. Which is also why he is given the ball in the death overs!
While the new kids on the block are providing unbridled joy to the spectators, the 34-year-old bowler from Pune, Dominic Joseph Muthuswami, is having the time of his life on the big stage of the Indian Premiere League. A well known name in the tennis circuit in Pune, Muthuswami impressed with his  accuracy and guile against Chennai on debut.
Anyone who can keep Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni quiet in the 17th over has to be good. Having bowled two good overs upfront, Muthuswami conceded just one run in the 17th besides taking a wicket.
Dhoni himself complimented him after the match saying, “Well bowled”. That will certainly add to his confidence.

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Ajay Naidu
Ajay is a freelance cricket writer based in India who travels with the Indian cricket team

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