The rise of T Natarajan from the relative outback of Salem to the Indian Cricketing milieu is a tale of marginalised success - straight out of the pages of a romantic underdog book. There is a lot to celebrate, but the biggest storyline is actually about following an already-established arc.
Little less than five years ago, a certain boy from Ahmedabad, after making enough inroads in the Indian Premier League, started for India in an ODI game in Sydney. He rattled the Aussies with his pace, unorthodoxy and toe-crushing yorkers to land India a victory in what was an already-forgettable tour by then. Since then Indian Cricket fans had come to associate Bumrah as a prodigal superstar, with the novelty factor being rare among the rarest. Everyone wanted to enjoy it till it lasts because it was not going to last long anyway!
Yet Bumrah had none of that. The path has been formalised, the discourse has been normalised and Jasprit Bumrah has soared high. He has gone into his own cockpit, flown the plane in his own way and crushed yorkers in an insane regularity that the world would be gasping for breathe. Five years down the line, he hasn’t stopped, nor has the restless rankle waited, and the only thing he kept on doing apart from picking wickets at the world’s various cricket grounds was smiling his way through. The Beauty and the Beast!
Now, half a decade to his debut, the world doesn’t sing the story of Bumrah’s rise from the relative obscurity of Ahmedabad - a city that sells affluent dreams of Business 101 and makes you a businessman quicker than you count 1 to 10 - to become an Indian speedster. He is one of the finest in the world at the moment, first in a generation of Indian quicks who sends shivers down the Aussies’ spine. He is the real deal.
In these five years, however, few things have remained constant. Bumrah’s awkward run, a delivery stride that defies physics at many levels, a top-arm action that threatens to take the arm away from the body and a heavy-pressure on back that might break away from the limbs at any time. It also generates yorkers that sterile some of the world’s best batsmen and also takes their stumps for an evening walk. Boom Boom Bumrah is the name. You don’t need an Ian Bishop to tell you to remember the name, it has etched into our mind already!
Now pause for a moment and let your imagination go wild with me. If one Bumrah can give you such thrill, can we have one more specimen to have the romance linger longer? Hold on. Imagine. Revel in the magic as a boy from Tamil Nadu ramping up, checking his mark and scampering with swagger. He lands, in fact, crushes, the seed right at the batsman's limb, even before it could angle in or out - whatever it is - as the batsman falls to block. The sticks are rooted off its base and you are a walker. The same magic, the same aftertaste with a different body doing the action.
We have seen him bowl with a lot of success in the @IPL and here is @Natarajan_91 bowling in the #TeamIndia nets for the first time after his maiden India call-up! A dream come true moment. 👏 pic.twitter.com/WqrPI0Ab7I— BCCI (@BCCI) November 15, 2020
It is this frailing magic an Indian cricket fan has waited for longer than ever. There were the likes of superstar Javagal Srinath, then came David Johnson, Abey Kuruvilla,Venkatesh Prasad, Harvinder Singh, and Debashish Mohanty and before Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, and Irfan Pathan took the country for a ride. S Sreesanth and Praveen Kumar made an instant impact but frizzled out faster than Maggi boils in your pan. The promise of a better tomorrow eluded us. The cherry darted around but how many bowlers made yorkers a regularity in the 90s and 2000s?
From that vantage point, the rise of T Natarajan is a story to be celebrated. Not only because his father worked as a porter at the railway station and his mother as a daily wage labourer while giving him the opportunity to play cricket as a kid, but also because of his grit and determination to stand out despite the luck playing its cruel card after his debut IPL season. He was laughed at after his clueless performance for Kings XI Punjab in the 2017 IPL yet he didn’t give up at all.
He used cumbersome 20 litre water jars for weight training, established an academy in his village to impart training for local kids for free, and recently even though the world was grappling with the fear of Covid-19, he kept on going about his training to keep his muscle in an impeccable shape. Orelse how could anyone deliver 71 yorkers in one tournament when the second best is 28. That is some performance if you look at the repeatability of the same without even taking the 16 wickets he had against his name.
If he gets to play the first T20I against Australia in Canberra, it will follow the same arc as Jasprit Bumrah but more importantly, it will be a big positive for India that is a unidimensional one at the moment without their best bowler. While being rested and playing the practise game against Australia A with the Pink Ball Under lights, Bumrah will be at peace too, knowing the onus has been handed to an able comrade who can do the job just fine. Like he had done five years ago.