Thangarasu Natarajan’s IPL season with Sunrisers Hyderabad is widely celebrated as the success of the tournament but someone who has seen him in close proximity, analyst Sriram Somayajula has pointed out that his work-ethics, discipline, and hard work meant success was largely looming.
Toil, sacrifice, drama and plenty of dedication - demonstrates Thangarasu Natarajan as a cricketer and first and foremost - a human being. His back was always packed against the wall, having been brought up in the toughest of economic times - with his father working as a daily wage labourer but that didn’t quite warrant him to give up on his dream, which he only realised after he picked up a tennis ball. In the backyards under the toiling heat of Chinnappampatti, a small village on the outskirts of Salem, a left-handed Natarajan first identified his real interest for the game.
While he was still another young boy dreaming big of playing cricket as a profession like millions of others in the country - his break arguably came when he jumped from playing with the tennis ball at the age of 20 - making a move to Chennai - in a bid to make it big with the timely help from Jayaprakash. In 2010-11, he got his first iron in the fire - representing the telecom firm BSNL in the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association’s fourth-division tournament.
Switch to the dusty bowl of the United Arab Emirates - Natarajan had already played enough domestic cricket - in which he spent a year away from the game correcting his action before the big money move came through as Kings XI Punjab spotted him from his time in the Tamil Nadu Premier League. It all came via his performance in the TNPL - where he effortlessly bowled yorkers as if it was his diet - sometimes even six at a time to leave the batsmen gasping but his debut season with KXIP couldn’t quite help him move up the ladder.
But what never changed through these testing times was his determination towards the game. At the age of 20, Sachin Tendulkar’s prodigal talent was already a blockbuster, but for Natarajan, he was still writing his script and needed an outstanding IPL season to make the breakthrough in the Indian colours.
Having seen and worked with him in close quarters during his stint with TNPL franchise Lyca Kovai Kings, Sriram Somyajula - a Performance analyst and someone who is also big on data was not surprised by his rapid rise. With COVID-19 hampering the opportunity for the two to work together in the 2020 edition of the TNPL, Sriram pointed out that Natarajan’s brilliant work-ethics combined with his triggered and a military-style discipline coupled with his continuous hard work has landed him in the deserving limelight.
“To be honest, I haven’t worked that much (with him) because of COVID this season. Natarajan has succeeded brilliantly because his work-rate is brilliant. As a team, be it any gatherings or whatever, Natarajan will be there, he will join somehow. He is a team man and work ethics, he is brilliant and it is a testimony of his hard work, which has paid off and has a long way to go in his career,” Sriram told SportsCafe in an exclusive chat.
With a real delight in his eye, Sriram also was of the highest praise for the 29-year-old in the execution of his skill-set, which has earned him all the applause. Natarajan’s work-rate is a well-known thing on the Tamil Nadu Cricket circuit, with the left-hander having seen in videos carrying 20-litre water cans as a measure to continue with his training even when he didn’t have the facilities around him.
“If you look at the execution part, he has been working really hard on that and has succeeded well. If you ask him how much you have practised, he will only say that he has worked how much the others have but an unseen side of him is he works twice as hard as the others. If he goes back home, he continues to work in whatever capacity he can. That guy because of his work ethics and discipline, it has brought success to him,” he added.
But somehow hard to believe for the masses, Natarajan is not just excelsior of the yorkers but also possesses a plethora of variations up his sleeve - which he also wears with a great degree of pride. Sriram once again was not quite surprised with the way Natarajan had executed his yorkers in the IPL 2020 - 76 of them in just one season.
“Absolutely, why yorkers are so revelling is because he has bowled 76 or more, compared to the second bowlers, which is 38. So he stands out for himself and for the entire league, that’s why he gets the credit for the yorkers. That doesn’t stop from anyone that he isn’t going to bowl a wide yorker, wide slower delivery. I think personally they have seen him bowl yorkers more, which has earned him that tag but he has got tremendous variations and line and length to both lefties and righties. I have seen him in close quarters, with the IPL in the past as well.”
With the conditions in India more or less similar to the conditions in the Middle East, Natarajan finding the right length every time came as a blessing to India’s search for an extremely talented death-over bowler. Navdeep Saini, who was seen as one of the prime contenders has floored quite a few talented batsmen in the past but his floundering form has made Natarajan emerge as the prime favourite. Sriram also reckoned that the conditions in the UAE have allowed the left-arm seamer to push his case above the rest.
“Most importantly, the wickets in the Middle East have helped his style of bowling, so if you told me that he would have been different at the Eden Gardens, he would have been different and in Mohali, he would be different. In UAE, he’s had so much success with such wickets and that has got the best of him and has suited his style of bowling.”
Having already stamped his mark in the Blue jersey in Australia with a masterful performance, picking up six wickets in the T20 format at an average of 13.83, Natarajan’s story is not just one of flight but one that has shown the world of cricket that fairytale does exist for a reason. While his career might have taken-off, his go-to delivery - the ‘yorker’ will always land the batsmen in an ultimate coup.