T Natarajan hails from Tamil Nadu. He rose to fame during the Tamil Nadu Premier League, playing for a couple of sides. However, it has been his stint in the Indian Premier League, with Sunrisers Hyderabad, that has earned him massive recognition, eventually leading to his national call-up.
The Indian pace attack has been one of the most lethal ones in the recent few years, following the rise of bowlers like Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami. Meanwhile, we have another name to add to this list, and it is the rising star T Natarajan, who is currently giving a tough time to the Australians, Down Under.
The 29-year-old has been in a malignant form of late, and it all began in the Indian Premier League (IPL) this season. Playing for Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), he finished as the second-highest wicket-taker for the side, claiming 16 wickets from the same number of matches, at an economy of 8.02.
As he earned his national call-up, he made his debut in the third ODI, where he claimed a couple for 70. He also made his T20I debut, as in the opening two games, he has claimed five for 50, at an economy of just 6.25, thus continuing his run from the IPL.
However, how much do we really know about him, and what is it with his bowling that makes him so unique? We take a look and analyse it all here.
Natarajan hails from Tamil Nadu, as he plays for the state in the domestic circuit. His best performance happens to be in T20s, having claimed 40 in 40 games, at an average of 25.72. In First-Class cricket, he has claimed 64 from 33 innings at an average of 27.03, while in List-A, he has 18 from 16, at 31.27.
However, his success story did not begin in the IPL, but it was in the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL). Initially playing for Dindigul Dragons, he impressed for the side in 2016, having claimed the third-most wickets, followed by an even better performance the next season, claiming the joint-most wickets for the side.
After he moved to Lyca Kovai Kings in 2018, he was notable for his yorkers, as he finished as their highest wicket-taker. He also managed to defend 14 runs, as his exquisite yorkers in the Super Over during the Eliminator earned him the nickname, ‘Yorker King’. It was followed by another impressive season in 2019, where he was their bowling king.
Following his success in 2017, he was roped in by Kings XI Punjab (KXIP), as he made his IPL debut with them. However, there was nothing much to write about his performance, as he played six games, managing to claim just a couple of wickets. Furthermore, surgery on his left arm ruled him out for the remained of the year.
It was then in 2018 when SRH hoped in. Interestingly, he wasn’t utilised at all for the first two seasons, as he just used the bench and time to sharpen his skills, under the vigilant eyes of bowling coach Muttiah Muralitharan and other senior pacers in the side. It was in 2020 when he became the surprise package.
Now, analysing his bowling, it’s already been mentioned before that he has a unique tendency to bowl perfect yorkers, making him the ideal partner for Jasprit Bumrah in the Indian side. Also, what is notable is his ability to bowl smartly and adjust his line and length, as per the situation.
It was striking during the second T20I, as he was taking his pace off the ball, as a sudden change in speed, followed by sporadic bouncers, provided India with the opening breakthrough, while the Aussies were steering at the rate of 10. As he took the pace off, the scoring rate dropped to eight. Also, his tendency to bowl occasional slow off-cutters did trouble the Aussies, which was highly distinguished.
“I told him [Natarajan] during the presentation, I thought he’ll be the Man of the Match, but as they say, it’s become a batsman’s game. Where everyone’s economy was high, he actually put the brakes on Australia’s innings. The 10-15 runs he saved, I thought that was the difference because if you look at the way Australia started and how they ended, the first thing I said when we got into the dressing room was that they were 10-15 runs short and we’ll win if we play normal cricket, and that was what mattered in the end,” all-rounder Hardik Pandya had said after the second game, as Natarajan finished with figures of 2/20.
“We are always a bit harsh on selectors, but credit should be given when it’s due. Credit to sectors for using the current form of T Natarajan by selecting him at the right time,” opined former Indian seamer Irfan Pathan.
Has Natarajan cemented his place?
Now, judging by his performance so far, it certainly seems like India’s wait for a perfect yorker partner for Bumrah might have come to an end. However, has Natarajan really cemented his place in the side, or is it still too early to make a call.
What’s important here is consistency. Also, having been able to make an impact in Australia, which happens to be pacers paradise, does prove that he has what it takes to make an impact.
He is most likely to be picked for the upcoming home series against England, early next year, where he is sure to be successful. However, one of his most significant tests would come during the tour of England next year.
Although it is unsure yet if he would feature in the Tests, provided he fares well at home, across formats, there would hardly be any doubt that he would travel to England. Also, if he can somewhat work on his seam, he is sure to get success in the United Kingdom (UK), while his occasional off-cutters are sure to come in handy.
But, as of now, with just three international outings so far, it’s still quite early to make a call. Nevertheless, Natarajan is still a big thing in the making and would undoubtedly scale colossal success with the side in the coming days. Just keep up with the excellent run, Nattie.
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Last Updated Dec 8, 2020, 2:56 PM IST