On his debut IPL last year, Tilak Varma was one of the few positives for Mumbai Indians in their sorry campaign, finishing as the team’s second-highest run-getter. In the ongoing IPL, Varma currently tops Mumbai’s run-scorers’ list as the five-time champions recorded three wins on the trot after losing their first couple of games.
With an aggregate of 214 runs in five matches at an average of 53.50 and a strike rate 158.51, the 20-year-old left-handed batsman has had an equally important role to play in Mumbai’s turnaround. His intent, ability to adapt to the situation and adjust his game accordingly drew accolades from captain Rohit Sharma as well.
“We all watched Tilak season and know what he can do. I like Tilak’s approach. He’s not afraid. He’s not playing the bowler, he’s playing the ball.
“We’ll see him play for a lot of teams,” Rohit said after Mumbai’s 14-run win over Sunrisers Hyderabad on Tuesday, when Varma scored a 17-ball 37 batting at No.5 and featured in a crucial 56-run fourth-wicket stand with Player of the Match Cameron Green at home in Hyderabad.
The India captain’s words should be a huge motivation for Varma, who seems to have impressed the national selectors as well with his consistent showing. It shouldn’t be surprising if Varma gets selected for Team India’s limited-overs home series against Afghanistan in June after the World Test Championship final or in the T20I leg of the West Indies tour in July-August.
A member of the India U-19 team that finished runners-up in the 2019 World Cup in 2020, the transition to the senior level has been a smooth one for Varma. Even for his state team Hyderabad, the left-handed batsman, who can also bowl a bit of off-spin, has done fairly well as he averages 40.90 from seven first-class appearances and 56.18 from 25 List A games so far.
An India A call-up, too, didn’t elude the youngster as he was a part of the squad that toured Bangladesh in November-December. He did have a place in the XI for the first four-day game against Bangladesh A, but unfortunately had to retire hurt after scoring 33. That muscle tissue injury sidelined him for three months and he missed the entire Ranji Trophy.
He then worked on his recovery at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore and smashed an unbeaten 84 off 46 balls in his comeback game against Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Chinnaswamy, Mumbai Indians’ opening game of this IPL. That was a reflection of his strong mindset.
“When I saw him first during a Hyderabad U-15 camp in 2016, I found he was a little more mature than guys of his age then,” recalls former Hyderabad off-spinner Kanwaljit Singh.
“Batting-wise, he was quite good, so I didn’t focus much on his technique. I just worked on his mindset. I told him, ‘You have the skills, back them, adapt to the situation and deal with it head-on’,” said Kanwaljit.
The advice appears to have paid off.
Dhawan poser for Punjab
Punjab Kings would be keeping their fingers crossed on the availability of their regular skipper Shikhar Dhawan as they get ready to host Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in Mohali on Thursday.
A shoulder niggle had kept Dhawan out of Punjab Kings’ previous game against Lucknow Super Giants, which they won in the final over playing under England all-rounder Sam Curran.
Dhawan, though, did appear for a fitness test on Wednesday. Besides, Punjab Kings are also waiting for England batsman all-rounder Liam Livingstone — nursing a hamstring issue since his arrival in India — to be fully fit.
If Livingstone is 100 per cent match-fit for Thursday, he could be a like-for-like replacement for Sikandar Raza or top-order batter Matthew Short.
RCB, who are dependent on the trio of Virat Kohli, captain Faf du Plessis and Glenn Maxwell in terms of their batting, need to address their bowling concerns as well. It remains to be seen whether they continue with the same bowlers or tweak.