x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Young Indians to the fore

Rayudu and Tiwary promise much but can only improve in the company of legends, such is the platform of IPL.

Opportunity knocks for Ambati Rayudu and Sourabh Tiwary, pictured, ahead of this year's World Twenty20.
Opportunity knocks for Ambati Rayudu and Sourabh Tiwary, pictured, ahead of this year's World Twenty20.

The roar at the Brabourne Stadium as Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya emerged from the dressing room to open the batting in the Mumbai Indians' opening IPL game last Saturday could be heard halfway across Marine Drive. As it turned out, neither man could deliver more than a cameo, and it was left to two youngsters to torment Shane Warne and the Rajasthan Royals. Ambati Rayudu and Sourabh Tiwary made half-centuries to give the Indians a winning start in a high-scoring game.

On Wednesday night, the two were at it again, adding 71 in less than seven overs as the Indians crossed 200 for the second match in succession. Both scored at a similar pace and smacked six sixes between them, but were taught a gentle lesson in the art of batsmanship by Tendulkar, who scored at a far more rapid clip (63 off 32 balls) while playing hardly any risky strokes. Time after time, he spotted gaps in the field and used the bowlers' pace and deft wrists to work the ball through them.

A day earlier, Jacques Kallis had done something similar for the Royal Challengers, easing to 45 from 38 balls before clubbing 44 from the next 17 that he faced. While teammates like Manish Pandey and Virat Kohli were guilty of trying to hit the ball too hard, Kallis used his experience to pace the innings perfectly. Robin Uthappa provided the mid-innings oomph with 51 from 21, but it was Kallis's calm hand on the tiller as Bangalore made a mockery of an imposing 204-run pursuit.

For the young men in the IPL, there's no greater education than playing alongside these legends. With the India squad for the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean to be announced on March 26, opportunity knocks for the likes of Rayudu and Tiwary. They have been the main beneficiaries of the four-foreign-player rule, showcasing their skill while the likes of JP Duminy and Graham Napier sit on the bench.

Nearly seven years ago, Rayudu appeared ready to leave the chrysalis and grow wings. The great and good of Indian cricket, who had watched him at the National Cricket Academy, spoke in hushed tones of how the Hyderabad boy might be India's next teenage batting sensation. There had already been rave reviews after his exploits on an Under 19 tour of England and a debut Ranji season that included a double-century.

A few months short of his 18th birthday, he was painfully shy and untutored in the ways of clichéd media-speak. He spoke quietly of how England was the "best country to play cricket in" and of coaches at the NCA who had helped him understand his natural game without tampering with it. "I don't think of those things," he said solemnly when asked about the pressure on him to be the next Tendulkar. "I just want to bat as well as I can. I'm not going to worry about the rest."

Now, after repeated run-ins with certain administrators in Hyderabad, a couple of wasted years with the Hyderabad Heroes in the rebel Indian Cricket League and a tendency to be bowled by the inswinger, he has the chance to fulfil the promise that he had as a teenager. Tiwary, the left-handed Dhoni clone from Jharkhand whose unorthodox style evokes his hero just as much as Virender Sehwag's once did Tendulkar, also has his eyes on the big prize.

They have been the main beneficiaries of the four-foreign-player rule,and single-mindedness that has kept Tendulkar and Kallis at the top for so very long. Dileep Premachandran is the associate editor at Cricinfo and the Asian cricket correspondent of The Guardian @Email:sports@thenational.ae