Natarajan: The Biggest Find of the Season

Whenever someone asks you, “Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?“, you’d be careful of what to say. You would dream big, but not so big that the target might be completely out of hand. And when someone would ask you the same question limiting the timeframe to ‘next 3 months’, you’d likely tread on a very careful path. But this man had huge dreams.

Natarajan Appeals for a Wicket (Source: Sunrisers Hyderabad | Instagram)

The Struggle

Son of a daily-wage labourer, Natarajan didn’t have the best of facilities in his village in Tamil Nadu. He had to toil hard every day. He played with a tennis ball till the age of 20, an age when many professional cricketers enter the big stage. And the Tamil Nadu Premier League came as a blessing in disguise for him. Some great performances in TNPL got him an IPL contract with Kings XI Punjab in 2017.

After a not so great season, he was released by KXIP and bought by Sunrisers Hyderabad for a modest price. Natarajan spent two years on the bench without playing a single match for SRH. He would never miss a single practice session in these two years. He practiced a lot, and he also spent a lot of time observing his teammate Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who is one of the best in the business.

The Stroke of Luck

And this is when a stroke of luck hit him. SRH changed both its coaching staff and the captain from 2019. Now, Trevor Bayliss and David Warner were at the helm of things for the Sunrisers. These two decided to hand over a debut for Natarajan in SRH’s first match of the season.

Natarajan’s debut was only decent, and although SRH had an enormous number of quality bowlers, Natarajan was still given more chances. And David Warner has the habit of betting on unlikely people as he did with Rashid Khan in 2017. Rashid is a superstar in cricket now. Warner might have had the same hopes on Natarajan.

By the middle of the IPL season, ‘Yorker Natarajan’ became the ‘talk of the town’ for his consistent yorkers and disciplined bowling. And he had the big dreams. In a YouTube interview with his fellow Tamil Nadu cricketer, R.Ashwin, he said that he aspired to pick MS Dhoni’s wicket one day. And in the next match against CSK, this happened.

M29: SRH vs CSK – MS Dhoni Wicket

Natarajan picks Dhoni’s wicket (Image Source: IPLT20 | Twitter)

Oh! And he confessed another dream of his in the interview with Ashwin. He wanted to play for India!

The Stroke of Luck Continues…

After a successful season of IPL, he was selected as a net bowler for India in its tour of Australia. And this is when another stroke of luck hit him. Varun Chakravarthy, who was to make a debut in Australia was injured and Natarajan was picked in the T20 squad in his place.

As the ODI series against Australia was about to begin, his fellow pacer, Navdeep Saini complained of back troubles and Natarajan was now selected in the ODI squad too. And Natarajan knew how to make things count. In his debut ODI for India, he impressed everyone by bowling in tandem with Jasprit Bumrah.

Right from giving India a good start in the powerplay to saving runs in the death overs, he’d done it all in just his first game.

Embed from Getty Images

After such a good performance, his debut in the T20s was obvious. And once again, his performances left everyone gushing. In all the three T20s, he put forth some spectacular performances. His performance in the second T20 where he conceded only 20 runs on a batting track is worth a special mention. He finished the T20 tournament as the highest wicket-taker and the joint best economy-rate with Mitchell Swepson.

He won the series for India and many hearts too. Natarajan is now in the race for a selection in the Indian squad for the T20 World Cup 2021.

From beginning the IPL 2020 as an unlikely pick in the SRH squad to finishing the Australia tour as a likely selection in the World Cup, Natarajan travelled a long way. Both his performances and his journey will be cherished for a long time. And he is the find of the season, both the IPL and the Australia series.

And Hardik Pandya summed everything perfectly.

Image Source: Cameron Spencer – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images

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