It’s never a surprise to see selectors jump at the possibility of fielding a left-handed batter who also has the ability to roll his or her arm over.
20-year-old Tilak Varma from Andhra Pradesh has so far played only 7 T20I matches for India. But what the team management, his team-mates, the selectors and the fans have seen has been some impressive knocks. The left-hander who was spotted in the IPL while playing for the Mumbai Indians has so far scored 174 runs in 7 T20I innings at an average of almost 35 and a strike rate of over 138. He has so far bowled in one match and registered figures of 1/17.
What also works in his favour is his calm and composed demeanor. With the ability to send any bowling attack on a leather hunt, taking his team out of precarious situations, and keeping calm in crunch situations, Tilak is slowly ticking all the right boxes.
It’s still very early days of course, but can Tilak be groomed to become the next Yuvraj or Raina?
Former India cricketer Abhishek Nayar feels Tilak’s rise has been terrific.
“To a large extent, he has been stupendous, especially the way he performed against the West Indies. He is a left-hander who can bat at No. 4 and he has shown that he can bowl too. He can roll his arm over and can bowl a couple of overs in T20Is and ODIs too. He is a terrific young talent who has repeatedly shown a lot of potential in the IPL and in domestic cricket,” Nayar told TimesofIndia.com.
Tilak, who was magnificent with the bat in IPL 2023, was given his international debut cap during the T20I away series against the West Indies and he delivered. The 20 year old scored 173 runs in 5 matches at an average of 57.67. He in fact finished as the highest run-getter for India in the five-match T20I series.
He bowled two overs in the fifth and final T20I against the West Indies and bagged his first international wicket by dismissing Nicholas Pooran.
Tilak Varma (Image credit: X)
The tour of Ireland though was not one to write home about for Tilak. He scored 1 and 0 in two matches.
But despite that, Tilak earned himself a place in the India squad for the upcoming Asia Cup, starting August 30.
Tilak is also part of the Ruturaj Gaikwad-led Indian team for the Asian Games 2023, to be held in Hangzhou, China.
“I am really happy that he (Tilak) has been given the opportunity. He is getting a lot of games to play for India, that is a very good sign. He played in Ireland and West Indies and playing in different conditions will give him a lot of exposure,” Nayar, who played 3 ODIs for India, further told TimesofIndia.com.
KL RAHUL PICKED AHEAD OF SANJU SAMSON FOR ASIA CUP DESPITE A NIGGLE
Star wicketkeeper-batsman Sanju Samson was added to the India squad for the upcoming Asia Cup only as a reserve player. With Ishan Kishan being picked as the first choice wicket-keeper, that essentially means he will only be selected in the playing XI if someone else picks up a niggle and he fits in as a replacement.
What’s interesting is that KL Rahul is carrying a niggle and is expected to miss at least 2-3 India games. And yet he was picked in the main squad for the Asian Games.
“It is not the original injury (for KL Rahul). There is a niggle. That is why Sanju is travelling (to Sri Lanka). We are expecting Rahul to be fit. If not at the start of the Asia Cup may be by the second or the third game,” said Agarkar in his first media interaction since taking charge last month, while announcing the Asia Cup squad.
KL Rahul (AFP Photo)
It is also a hint in some ways that KL is ahead of Sanju in the pecking order for the World Cup squad, which is likely to be announced in the first week of September.
India will kick off their Asia Cup campaign against arch-rivals Pakistan on September 2 and KL is likely to miss out on the marquee clash due to his niggle.
Should selectors have preferred Sanju over KL in the main squad?
“It’s a tough question. KL has a niggle but he is in the squad. You want to give him game time and enough matches to build up. The players who are likely to play in the World Cup should be in the team. Sanju has been playing in the West Indies and Ireland which is great, but with KL coming back from an injury, you have to give him enough game time before the World Cup,” Nayar, who is a cricket expert for Jio Cinema, further told TimesofIndia.com.