IPL 2022, Top 5 Youngsters: Ayush Badoni, Abhishek Sharma, Tilak Varma quietly confident in progress
Top 5 Indian young batters who have impressed from their performances in TATA IPL 2022.
The Indian Premier League (IPL) trophy has a message in Sanskrit inscribed in its middle that reads, "Yatra Pratibha Avsara Prapnotihi". The message translates to "where talent meets opportunity." And the IPL has been true to its message, giving opportunities to many talented cricketers over the past 14 editions. In a country with around 1.38 billion people, there are millions who aspire to wear that blue India jersey and represent Team India someday. Several of those aspirants run short on opportunities to showcase their talent and that’s where the Indian Premier League (IPL) has been a blessing.
The 15th edition of the IPL has been no different, with 10 teams fighting for bragging rights and with the addition of two more teams, the opportunities are greater than ever before. In the first three weeks of Tata IPL, we have already seen some raw talents from India’s domestic circuit. If these seeds are nurtured well, they can soon be seen representing India.
Let us scan through the top five Indian youngsters who have attracted eyeballs with their performances so far:
Tilak Varma (Mumbai Indians, 183 Runs, Ave 36.60)
The tall under-19 all-rounder Tilak Varma was bought by Mumbai Indians (MI) for INR 1.7 crores. The left-hander has lived up to his price tag and has scored 183 runs from six innings at an average of 36.60 for his franchise. It is not just the runs he has scored, but the manner in which he has scored these runs that has got everyone’s attention. Scoring at a brisk strike rate of 147.58, Tilak has batted his team out of difficult situations and is the third highest run scorer for Mumbai this year.
From the very first match, Tilak impressed everyone with his short but promising innings of 22 from just 15 deliveries. But the innings that made everyone go "wow" was against the Rajasthan Royals. In his second innings for Mumbai, the cricketing world witnessed a true potential star for the future. The left-hander smashed one of the best bowling lineups of this year’s IPL, the Rajasthan Royals, all over the park.
Chasing a mammoth total of 193 runs, Mumbai were under pressure at 40 for two. The young man stepped in and pierced the gaps right away, demonstrating some strong striking abilities. Tilak also played a few innovative scoop shots and lap shots in that innings but the one shot that impressed everyone was the reverse sweep six off Ravichandran Ashwin. That shot got the cricketing pundits to fall in love with this youngster, proving to everyone that the young batter has just got it in him and is here to dominate the bowlers. Tilak stitched a crucial partnership of 81 for the third wicket, while scoring 61 runs from just 33 balls in that match. The left-hander dismantled Rajasthan Royals attack with five creative sixes and three boundaries, scoring 35.88 per cent of the total runs scored by Mumbai.
Tilak’s father, who is an electrician, used to light up others' homes for a living, and when he saw the cricketing light in his son, the hard-working father and Varma’s coach ensured that he had a bright future. Coming from a humble background, Tilak always dreamt of playing in the IPL. Due to financial struggles, Tilak couldn’t even afford to buy the cricketing gear in his initial days, but as they say, if you are stronger than your situation, you will make it big sooner or later.
Abhishek Sharma (Sunrisers Hyderabad, 173 Runs, Ave 28.83)
Abhishek Sharma is another left-hander who has shown promise since ICC U-19 World Cup 2018. Abhishek, who has been with Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) since 2019, had previously struggled to find a consistent batting position. But this year, he was purchased for a whopping INR 6.50 crores and was given the freedom by the team management to open the innings. Abhishek has lived up to the trust shown by the SRH management and has delivered handsomely, scoring 173 runs in six innings at an average of 28.83, including a half-century.
One innings that stood out from Abhishek was 75 runs off just 50 balls against the four-time IPL champions, Chennai Super Kings (CSK). Coming off two back-to-back failures with scores of 9 and 13 in previous matches, SRH desperately wanted Sharma to score big and chasing 154 runs against CSK, Abhishek delivered when it was needed the most.
In his innings of 75, Abhishek started slowly but capitalised on some loose bowling from CSK and took on IPL debutant Maheesh Theekshana, slogging him for a massive six over deep mid-wicket to break the shackles for SRH with a wicketless powerplay. Abhishek played smart cricket and didn’t play any shot in anger. He waited patiently and punished the CSK bowlers for bad deliveries. One shot which stuck like a photographic memory was the straight six over Mukesh Choudhary where he just stood tall and smacked a 135.8 kmph short ball, straight over the bowler’s head for a six! In this match-winning knock against CSK, he hit a total of three sixes and five boundaries, scoring 48.39 per cent of the total runs made by SRH.
Abhishek Sharma, born in Amritsar, Punjab, comes from a cricketing background; his father played cricket in his younger days. He first came into the limelight with a century on his Under-19 debut for Punjab in the Vinoo Mankad Trophy. He led India to victory in the U-19 Asia Cup in 2016, before being replaced as captain by Prithvi Shaw months before the U-19 World Cup 2018, where he remained an integral member of the squad. He was bought by the Delhi Daredevils for INR 55 lakhs at the IPL auction in January 2018 and he smashed an unbeaten 46 off 19 balls on debut for them.
Ayush Badoni (Lucknow Super Giants, 107 Runs, Ave 35.67, SR - 148.61)
Another 23-year-old youngster got an opportunity to display his class and talent at this level thanks to the IPL. The talented Ayush Badoni, who had been unsold for the previous two seasons, was acquired by Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) for a lightning deal price of just INR 20 lakhs.
Playing in his first IPL season, from the very first innings, he felt like a player who always belonged at this stage. Badoni has scored 107 runs in 5 innings in IPL 2022. He is clicking at an average of 35.67. For a man of a small frame, Badoni doesn’t shy away from hitting those big sixes! Ayush has six sixes and eight boundaries in IPL 2022, with a strike rate of 148.61.
Ayush Badoni’s best innings so far came against Gujarat Titans (GT) in his debut IPL match. LSG were down and out as they were four wickets down with just 29 runs on the board inside the first five overs. Badoni started off very slowly, with just one run off the first 7 balls, but that was the need of the hour for LSG, someone to stick in and build a partnership with 16 more overs to go. As it was the first match for the new franchise as well, LSG needed a steady partnership in that difficult situation to post a respectable total on the board.
Ayush was scoring at a strike rate of under 50 till the 14th over. But the time had come for Ayush to take some chances and get the scoreboard moving for LSG. Badoni then smacked the Gujarat Titans captain for two fours and one maximum to collect 15 runs in the 15th over to change the momentum in LSG’s favor. Rashid Khan appeared amused by that shot. If there were any further doubts about this man’s calibre, he silenced the critics with a pull shot resulting in a six over deep mid-wicket off one of the fastest bowlers in IPL 2022 – Lockie Ferguson – to bring up his maiden fifty in his very first IPL innings.
Ayush Badoni hails from New Delhi and was born on December 3, 1999 in Tehri Garhwal, Uttarakhand. He graduated from Modern School, Barakhamba Road in New Delhi and is now a student at Sri Venkateshwara College in the south campus of Delhi University. He was coached by the famous Delhi cricket coach, Tarak Sinha, who also coached Shikhar Dhawan, Anjum Chopra and Rishabh Pant among others.
After being ignored by Delhi cricket selectors for the Ranji Trophy, Ayush went through three levels of trials by Delhi Capitals ahead of the IPL mega auction 2022; he hit 50 in less than 20 balls in each one of them but didn’t receive a single bid from Delhi Capitals. Badoni was finally recognised by Gautam Gambhir ahead of IPL 2022.
Jitesh Sharma (Punjab Kings, 90 Runs, Strike Rate - 176.47)
Another youngster coming up the ranks in this year’s IPL is Jitesh Sharma. The Vidarbha wicketkeeper batter, who was signed by Mumbai in 2016, did not get a single chance to showcase his abilities. Jitesh was sold to Punjab Kings (PBKS) in 2022 for a base price of INR 20 lakhs and was just waiting for his time to come.
Jitesh has scored 79 runs so far at a strike rate of 183.72. Scoring at an average of 39.50 this season, Jitesh is the 5th highest run-scorer for Punjab, with his highest score being 30 not out off just 15 deliveries against his former team, the Mumbai Indians. Jitesh has scores of 26, 23 and 30* in his 3 innings in IPL 2022.
The innings against the Mumbai Indians was Jitesh’s best as that knock showed us glimpses of what was to come ahead for this youngster. In the 18th over, Jitesh hammered Jaydev Unadkat for 20 runs, which included two maximums and two boundaries. One of those shots made everyone in the dugout go "wow" and it was a strong contender for shot of the tournament so far.
In the end, that innings from Jitesh was important because it lifted Punjab to an above-par total, which in the end was the difference as Punjab won by 12 runs. Another stunning Jitesh moment came when he took a stunning catch in his debut IPL game against CSK, which saw the back of MS Dhoni. What caught everyone’s attention was how confident he was about the edge and insisted his captain to go for the review, which resulted in showing a spike in the replay and the decision was overturned successfully.
Jitesh Sharma broke into the Vidarbha senior side in the 2013-14 season on the back of strong performances in the 2012-13 Cooch Behar Trophy, where he scored 537 runs in 12 innings, including two centuries and a fifty.
In the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2015-16, Jitesh finished as the third-highest run-getter in the tournament, scoring 343 runs at a strike rate of 143.51 with one century and two fifties. His attacking approach at the top of the order caught the eye of Mumbai Indians, who bought him for INR 10 lakhs in the IPL 2016 auction but he never actually debuted for Mumbai Indians.
Anuj Rawat (Royal Challengers Bangalore, 123 Runs, Ave 20.83)
The 22-year-old left-hander, who was part of the Rajasthan Royals' setup until last year, was sold for a whopping INR 3.4 crores to Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). Anuj Rawat has had a decent run this year, scoring 125 runs in six innings while opening with Faf du Plessis. Rawat has scored one 50 and averages 20.83 runs per innings while playing at a strike rate of 112.61. Rawat has played 6 innings so far for RCB with scores of 12, 0, 66, 21 and 26. In these six innings, Anuj has hit seven sixes and nine boundaries.
Anuj Rawat was at his fluent best against the Mumbai Indians. Chasing a below par target of 153 runs, Anuj first stitched a 50-run opening stand with captain Faf du Plessis. After du Plessis was dismissed, Anuj played sensibly according to the situation, knocking the ones and twos and taking the odd calculated risk while hitting regular boundaries. Rawat partnered with former RCB captain, Virat Kohli, to accumulate an 80-run stand and dismissed every chance of Mumbai making a comeback in the game. Anuj thumped Basil Thampi in that match with some sublime shots collecting 15 runs in the bowler’s third over. Anuj played shots all around the park in his match-winning innings of 66 runs, which came off just 47 balls. He was dealing in sixes in that match against Mumbai as he clobbered the Mumbai bowlers for six maximums. That fearless innings by Anuj helped RCB chase 153 with 9 balls to spare.
Rawat was born and brought up in Ramnagar and he moved to Delhi soon after he turned 10. His father is a farmer back home and his mother is a housewife. When he told his parents that he wanted to take cricket seriously, Rawat's father decided it was better to send his son to Delhi because of lack of cricket facilities and academies in Ramnagar.
After a few years, in 2016-17, Rawat got a break in Delhi's Under-19 squad before he made his Ranji debut the following season. He was soon picked for the Under-19 Asia Cup. This is Rawat's third IPL season overall but only the second in which he has gotten a chance to play. He was first bought by Rajasthan Royals for INR 80 lakhs in the 2020 auction but he made his IPL debut last year. He got to bat only once and bagged a first-ball duck against Kolkata Knight Riders in the game he played for Royals.