T Natarajan: flourishing in his new role
T Natarajan has been bowling well in the IPL 2022.|
T Natarajan is usually known for his searing yorkers in the death overs. However, the left-arm seamer has changed his role for Sunrisers Hyderabad this season also bowling in powerplay and middle-overs along with death and has been superb with 15 wickets from seven matches with an economy of 8.07.
T Natarajan has been one of the fairytale stories in the cricketing world. The cricketer who hails from Chinnappampatti village in Tamul Nadu has gone through numerous struggles to build his career. During his school days, Natarajan used to work at brick kilns, steel plants, and construction sites to help his struggling family make ends meet. Natarajan’s journey as a cricketer started from Chinnappampatti only.
Tennis ball cricket was emerging in the area when he was in his late tennis. Bowling full and fast into the blockhole was the only option for bowlers to prevent batters from scoring as they used to take a swing at every delivery. This was the start of him mastering yorkers and A Jayaprakash, who ran the Chinnappampatti Cricket Club noticed him for his fast and accurate yorkers.
Natarajan played for Chemplast and Vijay CC in the first-division league in Chennai. State selectors decided to take him on board after two years and he made his Ranji Trophy debut against Bengal in 2014-15. However, there was a twist in the tale as he was reported for a suspect action. Natarajan then again remodified and worked on his action to bounce back. He has scalped 67 first-class wickets from 21 matches and 19 wickets from 17 List A games. His stats in domestic T20s are also pretty impressive with 65 wickets from 56 matches.
He first impressed IPL scouts in 2016 while playing for Dindigul Dragons in the inaugural Tamil Nadu Premier League. He picked ten wickets in seven matches at an economy rate of 7.33. His super over with a flurry of yorkers against Abhinav Mukund and Washington Sundar was the most discussed thing of the tournament and Natarajan opened a door for his entry into IPL. He was picked by Punjab Kings in 2017 and picked two wickets from the six games in the season.
He was then picked by Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2018 but warmed the bench for the team in the next two seasons.2020 was a breakthrough for him. There was uncertainty over the scheduling of the tournament with the Covid-19 pandemic. He fired 71 yorkers in UAE that season and was able to prevent big-hitters like Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya to play big hits. Natarajan picked 16 wickets that season but more importantly he was established as a death specialist.
The selectors were impressed with Natarajan’s performance and he was picked as a net bowler for the Australian tour. However, injuries to a few senior players in the squad handed him his debut across that tour and he bowled very well. Natarajan has so far three Test wickets, three ODI wickets, and seven T20I scalps to his name. He played two games in the 2021 season but testing positive with Covid and a knee injury forced him to stay away from the game for a long time. SRH didn’t retain him ahead of the IPL 2022 but bought him back in the auction. It was anticipated that he will play the role of death specialist for the team but the scenario is completely different.
To everyone’s surprise, Natarajan has played a very different role than what was expected of him. He has bowled in the powerplay, in the middle-overs, and the death overs. He has been using the left-arm angle very effectively with the seem movement in the powerplay, bowling tight line and lengths in the middle overs, and nailing the yorkers in death as usual. So far, he has picked 15 wickets from seven matches and is second in the list of highest wicket-takers at the time of writing.
To break this further, Natarajan has picked six wickets from six overs in the powerplay with an economy of 6.83, three wickets from 13 in the middle overs with economy of 7 and six wickets from eight overs at the death with an economy of 10.75. The extension of responsibillities of Natarajan has also helped captain Kane Williamson to smartly rotate his bowlers. He has became an integral part of the SRH bowling unit and is most consistent wicket-taker for them.
Even in the last game against RCB, he picked three wickets conceding just 10 runs. Natarajan has plaed a key role in uplifting SRH’s campaign after first two defeats and been superb. Mustafizur’s new role and versatility of bowling in different phases will make him a valuable pick in the game.
With the advent of more and more power-hitters and the batters playing in a fearless manner, yorker becomes an more important weapon than ever. There are a few bowlers around the world who can bowl such toe-crushing yorkers and they are always important to win titles. Natarajan will be a key player for SRH in long term as he is evolving as a bowler and working on his abillities. The bowler will be knocking on the doors of the Indian team for the T20 World Cup in Australia this year and can also possibly put a strong fight for purple cap in the IPL 2022.