The 19-year-old Tilak Varma is making sure that Mumbai Indians let a sigh of relief for taking a pun on him. His performance in the second game of the season for Mumbai Indians was a revelation to the world regarding his ability to strike the ball clean and long.
He hails from Hyderabad and growing up was not easy for him. He started by playing tennis ball cricket when coach, Salam Bayash spotted him and encouraged him to join his academy. However, the cost of cricket was cumbersome for his father who undertook the job of an electrician.
Tilak’s early accolades
Soon after playing the game, Tilak started to garner attention. He was the top scorer in the under-16 domestic one-day competition. Further, he captained the under-14 Hyderabad team and kept scoring heavily. His photos were popping in the local newspapers which is when his parents were convinced that cricket was the right career for him.
He was awarded the Naman Awards by BCCI for the highest runs scored in the 2016-16 under-16 category. Sponsorships started to roll in which helped ease the financial constraints.
A dream come true
Tilak was performing well domestically and was fancied by quite a few scouts. Mumbai Indians had to go the extra length to outbid Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad to secure his services for INR 1.7 crores. For a cricketer from a humble background, this was a huge amount. This would be life-changing for him. Just like how IPL has changed the lives of numerous youngsters, it seems that Tilak’s time has finally arrived. He wishes to build a house for his parents who still don’t own a house.
Role in Mumbai Indians
With Ishan Kishan promoted up the order and Suryakumar Yadav battling injuries, Mumbai Indians provided the middle-order baton to the young and inexperienced Tilak. He needed to play carefree cricket but also be strategic about his run-making and anchor the innings. He was given the difficult task of being a combined replacement for Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan.
Tilak seems to have seamlessly taken on this task and performed his role to perfection. It helps that he has idolized Suresh Raina while growing up. Raina was one of India’s best middle-order batsmen and a phenomenal finisher. Tilak’s performance against Rajasthan Royals where he scored a sensational 61 off 33 balls was proof of him idolizing Raina and also filling the boots of Ishan Kishan and Sky.
In his stay at the crease, he smacked R Ashwin, Navdeep Saini, Riyan Parag, and Yuzvendra Chahal for sixes all across the ground starting from fine-leg, mid-wicket till long-off. His range and audacity at his age set him apart.
Path Ahead for Tilak
With two stunning performances by Tilak in the middle-order, he has ensured that he gets a long rope in the side even when Suryakumar Yadav is back from injury. However, it’s a long road ahead for the young Tilak ahead as much more is expected of him. Cricket is not a game of personal records but of a team winning. It is pertinent that Mumbai Indians nurture and up-skill him to be the quintessential finisher.
In yesterday’s match, Tilak lost his wicket at a pivotal point. To be able to take the game deep and finish it for the team is what is required. By Tilak’s own admission, ” My present goal is to get my team over the line, irrespective of what the situation is, in whatever way I can: as a batter, bowler or a fielder; irrespective of where I’m playing – whether it’s a local match or an IPL match. There are a lot of goals – to wear the whites, to win a world cup for India. But now, it’s just to win games for Mumbai Indians in the IPL.”
If Tilak is indeed successful in taking his game to the next level and can become a brilliant finisher as well as a strong middle-order batsman then there will be nothing stopping him from knocking on the door for the blue Indian cap. Only time will say how successful he can get but till now, he promises to be the next superstar for Mumbai Indians and possibly India.