Sanjjeev K Samyal
India’s Hardik Pandya and Shreyas Iyer celebrate after the match.(REUTERS)
T Natarajan landed in Australia with a good skill-set. As seen in the Indian Premier League, he had variations and the ability to bowl yorkers at will. Still, how the bowler from a Tamil Nadu village who is only comfortable speaking in his mother tongue does on the big stage remained to be seen.
The rookie left-arm pacer though has been a revelation in the ongoing series and the way he has eased into the international arena has impressed experts. Coming from Chinnappampati, a village 36 km from Salem city, the 29-year-old has been at home at the Sydney Cricket Ground as he was playing the tennis-ball game before he broke into the higher league.
“For a person of his background, his performance is very impressive; he has had very little exposure. He can’t speak the language (English or Hindi), and is suddenly mixing with the big boys. With all that, he has done a remarkable job. Now on, he will definitely be better than he was and the players will look at him in a different way. All that will give him confidence and he should be a different bowler,” said former India keeper-batsman Bharath Reddy, head of Jolly Rovers, the Chennai first division club for which Natarajan has played for a long time.
Having lost the first two T20 games, the pressure will be on Australia to prevent a whitewash in the series when they face India in the final game at the SCG on Tuesday. As they bid to avert a sweep, two Indian players will figure extensively in the home team’s planning—Natarajan and Hardik Pandya, both having played stellar roles in Sunday’s win.
Pandya won it with his big-hitting in the final two overs of the match, blazing a 22-ball 42 not out. Natarajan was brilliant in both the T20 matches. On Sunday, the Australia batsmen dominated the other bowlers, but not against the left-arm pacer, who returned figures of 4-0-20-2. In the first game, he derailed Australia’s chase with the wickets of D’Arcy Short, Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Starc, finishing with 4-0-30-3. Another good outing can help Natarajan land the Man-of-the-Series award in his first international series.
Natarajan has showed that there is more to his bowling than yorkers and slower balls. He got opener Short on Sunday with a short ball which the left-handed batsman hit to deep mid-wicket. In the first T20, he removed the dangerous Maxwell by moving the ball off good length.
“Honestly, I am so impressed. He keeps it simple. I like people who keep it simple. He is one of those guys, if you tell him, “Nattu, you have to go for a yorker,” he bowls a yorker. If you tell him “bowl a slower ball” he bowls that. He has been fantastic,” said Pandya, who said Natarajan deserved the Man-of-the-Match award more than him in the second T20I.
During the IPL, Reddy had predicted Natarajan was close to limited-overs selection. He feels if Natarjan adds a sharper bouncer to his arsenal, he will be a good option in Tests as well.
Pandya found his batting range in IPL and has carried that form into the Australia matches. He got two 90s in the one-dayers before the series-clinching knock at the SCG. While Natarajan has the advantage of being an unknown commodity, Pandya’s challenge is to stay a step ahead of Australia’s gameplan against him. It has mainly been bowling wide to avoid putting the ball in his range as he likes to go deep into his crease and play to his strength on the leg-side.
“I have been in these situations many times; I learnt from my mistakes in the past. My game is always around the confidence which I carry; it has that fine line where I back myself and not become overconfident.
“During lockdown I wanted to focus on finishing games where it matters the most. It doesn’t matter whether I score or don’t score more runs,” Pandya said at the post-match press conference.
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