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Tilak Varma, another bright spot from the assemblyline

After a blazing 39 in the first game a few days back, the 20-year-old went on to become the youngest Indian to score a fifty in T20 Internationals when he cruised to an effortless 51 off 41 deliveries

Tilak Varma (Photo: Instagram/ @tilakvarma9)
Tilak Varma (Photo: Instagram/ @tilakvarma9)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

If young Yashasvi Jaiswal had caught the imagination of the Indian cricket fans during the two-Test series against the West Indies, it’s Tilak Varma who is doing so on his international debut in the T20 series. Yes, India were found wanting in the first two of the ongoing five-match series and now trail it 2-0, but Varma had certainly proved to be the silver lining in this part of the campaign.

After a blazing 39 in the first game a few days back, the 20-year-old went on to become the youngest Indian to score a fifty in T20 Internationals when he cruised to an effortless 51 off 41 deliveries. Tilak, who hails from Hyderabad, seemed to have carried on his IPL form as he scooped, swept and heaved the ball to all parts of the park against a mingy Caribbean attack.

It’s not everyday that a young batter hits his first runs in the international cricket with two back-to-back sixes, but that’s precisely what he did in his debut game – vindicating the team management’s faith in him to send him at number four. ‘’From childhood, it has been my goal to win India the World Cup. In my mind, I always think about ways how to win the World Cup. I keep visualising every day that I will go and bat at this number and win the cup,’’ Tilak said after his debut innings.

The next T20 World Cup, scheduled in 2024 in the US and West Indies is still a long way off, but the precocious talent has shown the early promise to be a vital cog in India’s future scheme of things. A call-up in the T20 squad was a matter of time after Tilak consolidated his position in the top order of a heavyweight IPL franchise like Mumbai Indians over the last two seasons – and he has grabbed the opportunity with both hands while some of the bigger names have failed.

During the IPL 2023, where Tilak amassed 343 runs in 11 matches – which included a stupendous 43 off 14 balls in the second qualifier – TV pundit Ravi Shastri was categoric in what he expected of the gangling youngster. The former India head coach, who has an eye for spotting talents, had said: ‘’This guy is an India player and I would be very surprised if he does not play T20 cricket for India in the next six months or eight months. He will make a world of difference to the Indian middle order.’’

What was remarkable about Tilak’s career was that in his first season of IPL in 2022 itself, a season which saw the five-time champions endure a terrible campaign, his ability to anchor an innings when big names failed around him. He was drafted in the mega auction at a hefty price of Rs 1.7 crores, but never betrayed any signs of pressure to emerge as the top scorer for MI with 397 runs in 14 games.

Born in a lower middle class family where his father worked as an electrician, Tilak is yet another example of the fascinating rags-to-riches stories that the IPL has spawned – from a Mohammed Siraj to a Jaiswal. Things have already begun changing for him as last April, Tilak was roped in by RISE Worldwide Limited, the Reliance Group’s talent management company.

The company, which will look after his brand image positioning, endorsements etc, boasts of a Who’s Who of Indian cricket in Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, Surya, Shreyas Iyer, Ishan Kishan and Krunal Pandya.

So far, so good…all Tilak needs to do is keep the focus on.

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